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History of Crayons; How Crayolas Are Made; and Amazing Crayon Art

Photo by PhotopediaPhotosHow cool are crayons, right?  Didn't you just love cracking open a new box of Crayolas as a kid? The vibrant, diverse colors peeking up over the edge of the box just begging you to choose your palette and ignite your imagination.
Crayola was the first company to make crayons for children and were invented by cousins, Edwin Binney and C. Harold Smith. They debuted their new product in 1903 with a box of eight (blue, purple, black, red, brown, yellow, green and orange).
Edward's wife, Alice Stead Binney came up with the Crayola title, when she combined the French word for chalk (craie) with another French word, oleaginous, which meant "oily."

Original box of eight crayons Initially, Smith and Binney's partnership centered around their company which produced printing ink and shoe polish. In 1900, when they bought a stone mill in Easton, PA, and began producing pencils for schools, they began experimenting with other drawing and writing tools for children. Having already developed a new type of wax to mark crates with, they next set out to use a similar recipe that did not include the toxic carbon that this earlier product contained and eventually produced the safe, non-toxic formula that Crayolas became.

By 1949, the company had dramatically expanded its color choices and offered a box of 48 crayons. Followed soon in 1958 with the introduction of the 64 color box, which also featured the first-ever crayon sharpener built into the back of the box.  By 1998, the number of standard crayon colors had grown to 120, and while new colors are often added, they are constantly replacing previous existing colors.

Thirteen colors have been retired over the years, bringing the total number of regular colors ever produced to 133. Many colors are often kept the same, but renamed; although there are 13 that have been "officially retired," and they include:

  • Lemon Yellow
  • Orange Red
  • Blue Gray 
  • Violet Blue
  • Mulberry
  • Raw Umber
  • Orange Yellow
  • Magic Mint
  • Blizzard Blue
  • Thistle
  • Maize
  • Teal Blue
  • Green Blue

Check out this quick and cool, old school Sesame Street video that shows crayons being made.

While crayons might seem synonymous with school and kids, they are also beautifully used by fine artists as well. For example, crayon master Don Marco, who works exclusively with Crayola crayons and construction paper, to create some astounding pieces.

How's that for coloring inside the lines, eh?

Long live the crayon! 


Reader Comments (15)

Oh wow! Don Marco has some awesome pictures! That is so crazy that he uses only crayons to create those!
Hee hee! I feel old! I remeber some of the retired colors.....

January 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCass

Such interesting facts. That video is wonderful too. And HOW does that guy blend so well with crayons? Very cool.

January 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJen

I STILL love the smell of crayolas when they are open for the first time. I remember when I was little, & I would get a new box of crayons (I called them my "colors") & it was like I had won the lottery or found a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. And add a notebook of fresh, clean, unused paper to it....OH MY THEN I WAS IN PARADISE!!!

January 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKristine

There is no greater joy than to get to them while they are still "pointy". Instead of thank you cards my daughters color and tear out pages from their coloring books and give to people. Cards go in the trash, but I can visit someone months later and their artwork will still be hung on a fridge.

January 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKasey

Cracking open a new box of Crayolas as a kid? heck, I still do! I got a vintage tin of the basic 8 colors as a gift last month and I don't want to use it because I don't want to waste it!

January 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDita

I colored holiday printouts from the interwebs and stuck them in with our family Xmas cards this past year. ^_^

January 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCarita

I have my desktop background a swirl of crayons lol

January 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterStephanie

I loooooooved this posting =D
But I admit, my favorite thing about all of it was the music on the youtube video, it makes me want to put on my finest British Royal officer hat while I paint.

As an avid art journaler and daycare provider, you wouldn't believe the amount of crayons around my house. We use them down to the nubs and then melt them and use them in other projects...

January 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJulie

Thank you for this wonderful post. I'm about to turn 30 and I have no children....but I still keep a 64 box in the house at all times! :D

January 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCarrie

one of the best things about being a kindergarten teacher....I still get to open new boxes of crayons a lot. We just got some in yesterday, in fact. I love the smell and the look and the way new crayons color. Apparently, my kids only like them new, too. They were already whining because their crayons are not "new" anymore (we had a big coloring page for math today, they used a lot of red and orange). New crayons are the best!

January 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLisa

I still love opening a fresh box of crayolas and coloring w/ my grandsons. Coloring is soooo much fun. Wow oh wow what amazing art...can't believe those were done w crayons ...soooooo cool. i just love the fun wonderful stuff you bring us jinxi. love ya xo

January 5, 2010 | Unregistered Commentertammi

That's awesome Jinxi! I've been really inspired to do create lately and I actually found my old box of crayons. My grandparents kept them for so long in a really old school McDonald's box. Its like a happy meal box but its plastic and it latches. Awesome post. *props*

January 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKayla

good thing on crzyons you have a great work of art u should so be a artest good luck and u put in so many details lol ur welcome

good luck

jennnifer pruitt txt 7068445129

February 15, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjennifer pruitt

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November 15, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterugg mini mel
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