YAY, Crayola Crayons! I remember the first time I realized just how cool my mom was when she pulled out here yellow carrying case for 64 crayons. I was blown away by the majesty of such a site... all those colors. Now they have ... gosh.. packs of 152! That's 120 standard colors, plus the metallics and glitters!
So how long have kids (and adults) been enjoying Crayola Crayons? Cousins, Edwin Binney and Harold Smith had purchased a stone mill company and were making slate pencils for schools. In the late 1890s and early 1900s, Binney & Smith developed products for schools and children to use. Edwin's wife, Alice, was a school teacher. With that line of school product doing well, they focused on educational products targeting specific needs in classrooms of the day, likely getting ideas from suggestions from Edwin's wife, Alice. Crayola Crayons were invented in 1902. The word “Crayola” was originally thought up by Alice Binney. She combined the French word “craie”, meaning “chalk”, with “ola”, shortened from the French word “oléagineux”, meaning “oily”.
These new products included the 8 pack (black, brown, blue, red, purple, orange, yellow, and green) of wax crayons sold under the “Crayola” brand beginning in 1903 and the world’s first dustless chalk, called “chalk crayons”, which they won a gold medal for in the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair.
The wax Crayola crayon was actually a modified version of an industrial product Binney & Smith sold which was typically used to mark crates and barrels. The original industrial wax crayon was not safe for children, however because it used certain toxic chemicals to achieve the colors. They soon found ways to modify the ingredients to make them kid-safe, using non-toxic pigments, and began marketing these new wax based crayons to children (with wrappers around the sticks) and to artists (without wrappers).
As mentioned, Crayola Crayons were not the first crayon. In fact, the first “crayons” were made in Ancient Egypt, though not in the form we have today. The Egyptians combined beeswax with various colored pigments. These were then used to write and paint on stone. Once the writing or image was made on the stone, they’d use a strong heat source on the design, which would embed or “burn” it in the stone.
The first crayons resembling the modern crayon were made in Europe and were originally made out of charcoal and oil mixed together. The charcoal was replaced with various pigments in powdered form to allow for different colored crayons. Finally oil was replaced with wax instead, as it was easier to work with and provided a stronger writing stick.
Binney & Smith not only owns Crayola, but also owns Silly Putty, which they acquired in 1977. Today, Binney & Smith, which in turn owns Crayola, is owned by Hallmark Cards Inc., who purchased Binney & Smith in 1984.