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Inter-Society Color Council records

Creation: 1879-2000 Creation: Majority of material found within 1895-1985
Accession: 2188
View selected items online in the Hagley Digital Archives.
View selected items online in the Hagley Digital Archives.


The Inter-Society Color Council Records represents a wide array of individuals and organizations and their contributions to the development of standardized systems for identifying and evaluating color. This collection documents the advancement of color technology in the twentieth century and its practical application to problems related to color in science, art, and industry.


  • Creation: 1879-2000
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1895-1985



166.5 Linear Feet

Historical Note

Inter-Society Color Council (ISCC)

The Inter-Society Color Council was founded on February 26, 1931 for the purpose of coordinating the activities of leading technical societies relating to the description, specification, and standardization of color and promoting the practical application of this knowledge in science, art, and industry. There are currently more than 30 national associations and technical societies participating in the ISCC, including the Illuminating Engineering Society, the Optical Society of America, and the Color Association of the United States. The delegations appointed by these member-bodies represent the fields of science and technology; manufacturers of colored materials; producers of color reproduction processes; and creators of color effects in graphic design.

The ISCC's Problems Committee is a standing committee charged with investigating problems related to color and publishing and disseminating its findings in nationally-recognized publications. These problems are assigned to various sub-committees and the work is directed by specialists with expertise in the relevant subject matter. A number of color problems have been investigated by the ISCC in collaboration with the National Bureau of Standards, including the designation of color names, historical color usage, and spectrophotometric measurement of colors for the Textile Color Card Association's Standard Color Reference.

In addition to sponsoring symposia at its own annual meetings, as well as the annual meetings of member organizations, the ISCC has sponsored a series of technical conferences, known as the Williamsburg Conferences, to explore a single subject considered to be of particular relevance to field of color science. Topics have included instrumental colorant formulation, optimum reproduction of color, and fluorescence and the colorimetry of fluorescent materials.

Another important activity of the ISCC is the publication of the bi-monthly newsletter which provides updates on the activities of the ISCC and its member-bodies and reviews current literature in the field of color science. The ISCC's annual report is also published in a special issue of the newsletter.

Textile Color Card Association (TCCA); Color Association of the United States (CAUS)

The most prominent trade association among ISCC member organizations is the Color Association of the United States, whose predecessor, the Textile Color Card Association predates the ISCC by sixteen years. The TCCA's pioneering efforts in presenting a uniform color standard for adoption by the various segments of the American textiles industry reflects the same principles underlying the formation of the ISCC.

Prior to the First World War, colors for American textiles were selected by the millinery industry based on German dyestuffs and fashion information from the latest Paris openings. Following the outbreak of hostilities in Europe, the milliners were no longer able to acquire the information and material necessary to complete their seasonal color forecasts. The Textile Color Card Association (TCCA) was organized on February 19, 1915 in response to the demand for a standardized set of staple colors to enable different segments of the textiles industry and allied trades to coordinate their product lines. The TCCA's first standard color card, comprised of 110 colors, was issued May 21, 1915. This universally recognized reference, now in its tenth edition, continues to set color trends in American textile markets.

In addition to the standard card, the seasonal color cards issued semi-annually by the TCCA provide a valuable color-forecasting service to American textiles manufacturers. The TCCA has also issued color cards in cooperation with various trades representing segmented markets within the larger textiles industry. Cards have been issued for hosiery, women's gloves, shoe leather, men's wear, and children's wear. Since the late 1920s, the TCCA has also worked closely with the federal government, particularly the armed forces, to produce standardized colors according to government specifications. The colors developed by the TCCA have been used in uniforms, ribbons, decorations, and flags. In 1952, the TCCA issued the first color card for upholstery and drapery fabrics. By the late 1960s, cards covering the entire home furnishings industry were being issued.

At the December 1, 1955 Board of Directors meeting, the name of the organization was officially changed to the Color Association of the United States (CAUS). This decision reflected the organization's changing focus in the post-war economy as the need for reliable color forecasts became apparent in other industries beyond the fashion trades. America's burgeoning consumer culture made color coordination an increasingly important component for industries such as home furnishings, floor coverings, paints, wallpaper, and household appliances. The annual interior colors forecast currently represents the largest bloc of CAUS membership.

The colors selected for inclusion in the TCCA's seasonal color forecasts and Standard Color Reference were chosen based on results from surveys of members representing the various trades within the textiles industry and the names assigned to these colors were merely descriptive terms. Alternatively, the Munsell system of color notation, which first came to prominence during the same period the TCCA was organized, represented a determined effort on the part of those working in the emerging field of colorimetry to provide a scientific basis for the identification and selection of colors that would replace vagueness and uncertainty with clarity and precision.

Munsell Color Company

Professor Albert H. Munsell (1858-1918) developed the first widely-accepted system of color notation to promote the accurate and convenient description of color. His principal aim in developing this system was to provide a resource for the teaching of color theory, particularly for children. In the years following the initial publication of A Color Notation in 1905 and the Atlas of the Munsell Color System in 1915, the Munsell system has gained international acceptance and has served as a model for other color order systems.

The method of color notation developed by Professor Albert H. Munsell is essentially an attempt to describe and analyze color scientifically, based on three attributes: hue, value, and chroma. The arrangement of these attributes into orderly scales of equal visual spacing, creates parameters by which color may be evaluated accurately under standard conditions of illumination.

In the Munsell system, chromatic colors are grouped by five principal hues of red, yellow, green, blue, and purple, with an additional five intermediate hues created by combining these principal hues. Thus, the hue notation demonstrates a color's relation to the five principal and intermediate hues and their finer subdivisions. A color's value notation describes the degree of lightness or darkness in relation to a neutral gray scale which extends from a theoretically pure black to a theoretically pure white. The chroma notation indicates a color's saturation, or the degree to which a particular hue departs from a neutral gray of the same value.

The Munsell Color Company was originally organized in Boston in 1918 to coordinate the publication of A. H. Munsell's books as well as the production of educational materials. In 1921, A. H. Munsell's son Alex (A. E. O. Munsell), took over the direction of the company and moved its operations to New York. Alex Munsell was more interested in scientific applications of his father's work then in the production of art supplies and devoted his energies to the development of a research laboratory. After several years, production of Munsell crayons was turned over to the Binney and Smith Company and distribution of paints, drawing papers, and related supplies was handled by Favor, Ruhl and Company.

In 1923, the company relocated to Baltimore. The company's proximity to Washington, D.C. facilitated investigative work in conjunction with the National Bureau of Standards, which had published a technical paper on the Munsell system in 1920. Research conducted under the general supervision of Irwin G. Priest, head of the colorimetry section at the Bureau of Standards, resulted in the completion of a major revision of Professor Munsell's atlas containing improved color scales based on spectrophotometric measurements, published in 1929 as the Munsell Book of Color. This achievement was accomplished two years before the International Commission on Illumination (CIE) adopted universal standards for colorimetry.

The Munsell Color Foundation was established in September 1942 in order to promote the advancement of color knowledge, particularly as it relates to the standardization and specification of color and color terminology, as well as its practical application to color problems in science, art, and industry. The foundation assumed responsibility for the direction of the Munsell Color Company and encouraged the company to undertake a number of cooperative projects with the ISCC, including the development of color blindness and color aptitude tests. The community of interest shared by the ISCC and the Munsell Color Foundation was further reaffirmed through the custom of having one the foundation's trustees nominated by the ISCC Board of Directors.

In a move designed to insure that the tradition of integrity of Munsell products would be maintained, the foundation sold the Munsell Color Company to the Kollmorgen Corporation in March 1970. The foundation continued to provide grants supporting color research until 1983, when its assets were transferred to the Rochester Institute of Technology in order to create the Munsell Color Science Laboratory.

British Colour Council

As the British counterpart to the ISCC, the Colour Council issued color standards and seasonal color cards, as well as color standards for military ribbons and royal coronations from 1930 to 1972.

Dorothy Nickerson

Dorothy Nickerson (1900-1985) worked in the research laboratory of the Munsell Color Company from 1921 to 1926, before joining the United States Department of Agriculture as a color technologist. In the course of her long and distinguished service with the USDA, Ms. Nickerson was responsible for establishing color standards for grading cotton as well as setting specifications for artificial daylight in color inspections of agricultural products. She was a founding member of the ISCC and served as secretary from 1935 to 1952 and as president from 1954 to 1955. She also served as trustee of the Munsell Color Foundation and is credited with more than 150 scientific and technical publications.

Among Dorothy Nickerson's many outstanding contributions to the field of color science was her participation in the development of the Munsell Renotation System, which provided a graphic representation of the spacing of Munsell colors according to CIE coordinates. Following her official retirement in 1964, she continued her active involvement with the Optical Society of America's Committee on Uniform Color Scales and the Subcommittee on Color Rendering of the Illuminating Engineering Society. In collaboration with Deane Judd, she completed studies for the National Bureau of Standards on the spacing of Munsell colors which produced the Munsell Re-renotations and a comparative analysis of the Munsell Color System and the Swedish Natural Color System.

Raymond K. Briden

Raymond K. Briden (1894-1972) was a designer for several leading textile mills in the mid-twentieth century and instructor at the Rhode Island School of Design. Included in this series are weave patterns and specifications, fabric samples, correspondence, and assorted handbooks, trade catalogs, and color cards.

Hugo Knudsen

Hugo C. Knudsen (1876-1955) was a pioneer in the field of photo-engraving and inventor of a process to photograph color images directly onto plates ready for printing by offset lithography. Included in this series are materials describing the Knudsen process, records relating to Knudsen's inventions and patents, contracts for the rights to use the process and manufacture and distribute products related to the Knudsen process.

Scope and Content

The Inter-Society Color Council Records represents a wide array of individuals and organizations and their contributions to the development of standardized systems for identifying and evaluating color. This collection documents the advancement of color technology in the twentieth century and its practical application to problems related to color in science, art, and industry.

Location Note

Item ID numbers correspond to box numbers. In most cases, only one item per box exists, but some boxes do contain more than one item.

Existence and Location of Copies

View this collection online in the Hagley Digital Archives.

Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research.

Language of Materials


Additional Description


Donation of Cooper-Hewitt Museum (Accession 2188) and Dorothy Nickerson (Accession 2189)

Finding Aid & Administrative Information

Inter-Society Color Council records
Description rules:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Repository Details

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

PO Box 3630
Wilmington Delaware 19807 USA