You kids with your ready-mixed cans of paint and your new-fangled rollers. You don't know how easy you have it.
If you were setting up house in nineteenth century Texas, it took real planning, time and toil to add a coat of civilization to your bare walls.
First you had to go to the local merchant who stocked the ingredients. That's right, ingredients.
That might be a paint and varnish specialist in the larger towns, but where most Texans lived at the time, it meant the general store or the druggist. The proprietor would order the needed supplies from wholesalers in New Orleans...and the waiting would begin.
Once the ingredients arrived it was time to mix them.
Any paint recipe has three essential parts: pigment, binder and solvent.
The role of the pigment was most often played by white lead, a corrosion that forms on the surface of regular old lead lead when exposed to fumes from boiling vinegar. White lead was valued for it's durability and excellent covering ability.
Various other pigments could be added to tint the mixture if plain white was not good enough for you. Dirt pigments like ochre, umber and sienna, plant based pigments like Alizarin crimson and even synthetic pigments like Prussian blue were available.
The binder was almost always oil, specifically linseed (flax seed) oil, due to its fast drying time, especially if it was boiled first.
And finally the solvent. It's purpose is to allow the paint to flow more easily from the brush (you didn't think you could use a roller, did you?) and decrease drying time. Turpentine, distilled from the resin of pine trees, filled that bill.
But, if you didn't want to go to the trouble of sending for all those commercial ingredients, you could use things found closer to home.
Red barn paint was made by mixing skimmed milk with the blood of slaughtered cattle or hogs.
Then, of course, there was whitewash. Ubiquitous and cheap.
Here is a whitewash recipe that appeared in the 1856 Texas Almanac:
"A whitewash equal to good white paint, and similar to that on the east end of the President's house in Washington, may be made as follows. Take half a bushel of nice unslaked lime, slake it with boiling water; and cover it during the process to keep in the steam. Strain the liquid through a fine sieve and add to it a peck of clean salt previously dissolved in warm water; three pounds of ground rice boiled to a paste and stirred in hot; half a pound of Spanish whiting (that's chalk), and a pound of clean glue thoroughly dissolved (this is glue of the hoof, horn and hide variety). Add five gallons of hot water to the whole mixture, stir it well and let it stand a few days covered from the dirt. It should be put on hot, and for this purpose it can be heated in a small kettle on a portable furnace. A pint should cover a square yard and it will keep bright for years."
If you can get up gumption to try this recipe, please send photos of the results.