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Crayola Crayon History

Edward Binney and Harold Smith co-invented Crayola crayons.

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handful of crayons

handful of crayons

Getty Images/Photographer Thomas Northcut
Crayola brand crayons (compare prices) were the first kids crayons ever made, invented by cousins, Edwin Binney and C. Harold Smith. The brand's first box of eight Crayola crayons made its debut in 1903. The crayons were sold for a nickel and the colors were black, brown, blue, red, purple, orange, yellow, and green. The word Crayola was created by Alice Stead Binney (wife of Edwin Binney) who took the French words for chalk (craie) and oily (oleaginous) and combined them.

Today, there over one hundred different types of crayons being made by Crayola including crayons that: sparkle with glitter, glow in the dark, smell like flowers, change colors, and wash off walls and other surfaces and materials.

According to Crayola's "History of Crayons"

Europe was the birthplace of the “modern” crayon, a man-made cylinder that resembled contemporary sticks. The first such crayons are purported to have consisted of a mixture of charcoal and oil. Later, powdered pigments of various hues replaced the charcoal. It was subsequently discovered that substituting wax for the oil in the mixture made the resulting sticks sturdier and easier to handle.

The Birth of Crayola Crayons

In 1864, Joseph W. Binney founded the Peekskill Chemical Company in Peekskill, N.Y. This company was responsible for products in the black and red color range, such as lampblack, charcoal and a paint containing red iron oxide which was often used to coat the barns dotting America's rural landscape.

Peekskill Chemical was also instrumental in creating an improved and black colored automobile tire by adding carbon black that was found to increase the tire tread life by four or five times.

Around 1885, Joseph's son, Edwin Binney, and nephew, C. Harold Smith, formed the partnership of Binney & Smith. The cousins expanded the company's product line to include shoe polish and printing ink. In 1900, the company purchased a stone mill in Easton, PA, and began producing slate pencils for schools. This started Binney's and Smith's research into nontoxic and colorful drawing mediums for kids. They had already invented a new wax crayon used to mark crates and barrels, however, it was loaded with carbon black and too toxic for children. They were confident that the pigment and wax mixing techniques they had developed could be adapted for a variety of safe colors.

In 1903, a new brand of crayons with superior working qualities was introduced - Crayola Crayons.

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