Pantone began in New York City in the 1950s as the commercial printing company of M & J Levine Advertising. In 1956, its founders, advertising executives brothers Mervin and Jesse Levine, hired recent Hofstra University graduate Lawrence Herbert as a part-time employee. Herbert used his chemistry knowledge to systematize and simplify the company’s stock of pigments and production of colored inks; by 1962, Herbert was running the ink and printing division at a profit, while the commercial-display division was $50,000 in debt; he subsequently purchased the company’s technological assets from the Levine Brothers for $90,000 (equivalent to $5,880,000 in 2018) and renamed them “Pantone”.
The company’s primary products include the Pantone Guides, which consist of a large number of small thin cardboard sheets, printed on one side with a series of related color swatches and then bound into a small “fan deck”. For instance, a particular “page” might contain a number of yellows of varying tints