I can’t think of a single time in my life where I did not have at my disposal some sort of writing utensil and a stack of paper.
I’m being serious here. Some of my fondest childhood memories involved heading down to the local department store, and practically begging my parents to shell out the loose change they had to buy a bundle of lined paper and a package of crayons, markers, coloured pencils, whatever. When I was growing up, I would be constantly creating various arts and crafts. Most boys my age were playing with Transformers, WWF action figures, and Micro Machines. I was just as content with a doodle pad and a ball point pen. I loved drawing pictures, and scribbling in margins, and illustrating my own picture books.
I still have this fond memory of life in third grade. When I was in the third grade, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were one of the most popular television shows in the world, and I was a huge fan. I was such a fan that I would often design and draw my own Ninja Turtles picture books. Most of the time, I was finished in-class assignments early, so I took the free time that I was given to draw my creations.
I regret to say that I no longer have these books that I created. Third grade was twenty-two years in the past and sadly I think I accidentally tossed them in the garbage. It honestly didn’t matter much, because as to be expected with 9-year-olds, my artwork was quite childlike, and my vocabulary wasn’t exactly huge. But, I did spell the names of all the turtles correctly, so at least I had that going for me. And for what it’s worth, I remember asking my teacher, Mr. Porter, if I could display my “books” on the book reading table for the rest of the class to read. He agreed, and I was surprised to see so many of the kids in my class taking a peek at them. Whether it was to make fun of them, or whether they were really interested in them, I can’t really say. But, I did have the claim to fame in that I was the only self-published author in my third grade class. At least that’s something, right?
But, this blog topic isn’t about self-publishing. Nor is it about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. But it is about a subject in relation to these two topics.
After all, in order to create these books on a subject I absolutely adored in my childhood, I needed to have good, quality art supplies, right? I needed to have supplies that were durable and long-lasting enough to last me several hundred pages, but yet still provided bright colours, sharp images, and just overall fun.
Enter the wonderful world of Crayola crayons, markers, poster paints, and coloured pencils.
I can’t remember a time in which I didn’t love Crayola products. One of my earliest memories of Crayola products comes from my very early childhood. Back in those days, I used to love McDonald’s Happy Meals (these days, I hardly ever go inside a McDonald’s), partly because of the fact that inside each one, there was a special treat. And one year, McDonald’s gave out Crayola art supplies. It wasn’t much, just one marker, or a package of three crayons. But, when I reached inside the Happy Meal box and pulled out the bright red marker inside, I was instantly a fan. I think I coloured with that red marker until the whole thing dried out.
Over the years, I have owned several Crayola products, and I have so much to say about the Crayola products that have made appearances in my lifetime so far...but before I go into that, why not have a little bit of a history lesson behind the creation of Crayola, and how it evolved over the years.
The year was 1885. In New York City, cousins Edwin Binney and C. Harold Smith (whose names were printed on the labels of every Crayola crayon for a number of years) started up the company, only back in those days, the company was simply known as Binney & Smith.
It may surprise some of you to know that when the company was first founded, it wasn’t initially a company that made art supplies. Instead, it focused on the manufacturing of industrial dyes and pigments. Some of the earliest products that the company manufactured at first were red iron oxide pigments for use in barn paint, as well as carbon black chemicals that were not only used to make tires black, but to also increase the lifespan of the tires.
In 1900, the company started manufacturing the first of what would become many writing utensils, the slate school pencil. Four years later, the company invented the first “dustless” white chalk, which would win a gold medal at the 1904 St. Louis World Fair!
And, it was right around that time that Binney and Smith would end up creating their flagship product, as well as the popular name associated with the product.
It began in 1902, when Binney and Smith developed the Staonal marking crayon. Shortly after that, Edwin Binney and his wife, Alice Stead Binney, started the development on a line of wax crayons. The crayons were first sold on June 10, 1903, and originally came in eight colours. These colours were red, yellow, blue, orange, green, violet, brown, and black.
But instead of having the product go under the Binney and Smith name, a new name was coined.
The origin for the name was originated by Alice Stead Binney, and the name came from two sources. The “Cray” came from the French word for chalk, ‘craie’. The “Ola” came from the word oily (to simulate the feel of the wax crayon). Put them together, and you have Crayola!
Originally, the crayons would only come in eight colours, but by 1905, there were several packages of various sizes to be had. Various packages that could be bought at the time were counts of 6, 7, 8, 12, 14, 16, 18, 24, 28, and 30 (of these, only 8’s, 16’s, and 24’s are sold today). In 1926, Crayola purchased the Munsell Color Company product line, and as a result, twenty-two new colours were added to the Crayola line-up. Additional colours included carnation pink, grey, peach (then called flesh), and various mixtures of colours including blue-green, blue-violet, and red-orange, among others. A few years later, Crayola combined its lineup with Munsell’s colours to create a Drawing Crayon 52 Color Assortment. In 1949, Crayola introduced the 48 count, the first box to be featured in a non-peggable floor box. Nine years later, the company would bring out its first 64 count box, with a built in crayon sharpener!
As of 2012, the popular crayons can be bought in 8’s, 16’s, 24’s, 48’s, 64’s, 96’s, and 120’s. A 150 count package in a telescope shaped case was introduced in 2006, which contains all 120 current colours, plus special Metallic and Glitter crayons.
Other products that the company has made over the years include markers (introduced in 1978, with washable ones produced since 1987), coloured pencils (introduced in 1987), and various other products including glue, construction paper, calligraphy pens, poster paint, erasers, and even safety scissors! I still remember the gift of a Crayola caddy that I received for a Christmas gift, and using the poster paint to...ahem...decorate my toys! I still even have a Crayola crayon gift set with collectable case that I got back in 1991! And, I still use it today!
When you look at it, there’s a lot of history that is associated with the various colours that Crayola has introduced in its over 100-year history, and I thought I’d take this time to share some of those trivia facts about the crayons (and all things Crayola for that matter) with all of you.
1 – For all the Crayola crayon colours that have existed over the years, there are some colours that are not retired. The list of thirteen Crayola crayons that are no longer manufactured are;
Lemon Yellow, Navy Blue, Teal Blue, Thistle, Mulberry, Maize, Blizzard Blue, Violet-Blue, Blue-Grey, Orange-Yellow, Green-Blue, Magic Mint, and Raw Umber.
2 – Eight of the Crayola Crayons listed above were retired in 1990. The eight colours replacing them were Wild Strawberry, Vivid Tangerine, Dandelion, Jungle Green, Cerulean, Royal Purple, Fuchsia, and ironically enough, Teal Blue!
3 – Binney & Smith acquired the rights to Silly Putty in 1977.
4 – Some Crayola colours were renamed due to cultural or sensitivity issues. These colours include;
Flesh to Peach
Indian Red to Chestnut
Prussian Blue to Midnight Blue
5 – A Yale University study concluded that the scent of Crayola crayons is one of the twenty most recognizable scents for adults. It came in at #18, beating out bleach and cheese!
6 – A commemorative postage stamp with a picture of a box of Crayola crayons on it was issued in 1998, for the 95th anniversary of the invention of the product.
7 – A Crayola Colour Census was held in 2000, where Americans could vote on what their favourite colour was. Blue came in first place in the poll, followed by Cerulean and Purple Heart. (As for my favourites, I’m torn between Cerulean and Royal Purple).
8 – In October 2003, The Crayola Factory (a museum and visitor center that opened up in Easton, Pennsylvania five years earlier) unveiled the “World’s Largest Crayon”. The blue crayon, made in celebration of the crayon’s 100th birthday, weighed fifteen hundred pounds and measured fifteen feet in length. The crayon itself was made using leftover crayon shavings and bits sent in by children all over the United States.
9 – Some of the current Crayola crayons were named by fans of the crayon, in particular with the Metallic FX series. Some of the colours named by fans include such names as Blast Off Bronze, B’dazzled Blue, Metallic Seaweed, and Illuminating Emerald.
10 – Specialty crayons have been created over the years in stand-alone packages. They include Silly Scents (scented crayons), Heads and Tails (a crayon with two different coloured ends), Crayola Twistables, True to Life, Color Mix-Up, Pearl Brite, Gem Stones, Silver Swirls, and Changeables (colour-changing crayons).
I think that’s all the information that I have to say about Crayola crayons and other Crayola products.
I have always loved Crayola products. When I designed those picture books in third grade, I didn’t use anything else but Crayola products. Crayola markers, Crayola crayons, if the brand name was Crayola, I knew I could count on it to be good. Even now, if I have to make an art project, I always gravitate towards Crayola art supplies. While Crayola products remind me of childhood, and a carefree time in which colouring pictures was all that I needed to use them for, I love using them now as an adult. They’re still high quality, they’re affordable, and they have more colour choices than ever before.
My name is Matthew W. Turcotte, and I am a Crayola kid for life!