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While developing the world’s first dustless chalk, Edwin Binney and C. Harold Smith realized that there was also a demand for an affordable crayon. In 1903, they introduced their first box of Crayola crayons. For a nickel, you could get a box of eight.

Edwin’s wife Alice came up with the name from the French word “craie” (chalk) and the Latin word “oleaginous” (oily, of the olive). This proved to be a critical move in establishing the brand. Not only does it sound like what it is (a crayon), but it also rolls nicely off the tongue. I imagine that Binney and Smith’s Oily Chalk Sticks would not test well with focus groups.

After Binney and Smith won the Gold Medal Award at the St. Louis World’s Fair for their dustless chalk, they decided to change their box design to feature their award. The Crayola boxes continued to boast the Gold Medal for the next fifty years.

Have you ever wondered how crayons are made? Me neither. But if I’ve sparked your curiosity, check out the video on the right and listen to the soothing voice of Mr. Fred Rogers as he takes you on a tour of a Crayola factory. If you prefer the art-house version, Sesame Street brings you the same tour as only they can. I read on the Crayola website that they recently celebrated making their 100 billionth crayon. Don’t get me wrong. This is a lot of crayons. But it’s only a about 14 crayons per person who is alive on the earth today. Considering that they’ve been making crayons for over a century, 100 billion suddenly seems believable.

Speaking of factories, Crayola products are manufactured in Forks Township, Pennsylvania; Bethlehem Pennsylvania; and Mexico City. They also seem to have a facility in Easton, Pennsylvania called “The Factory,” but as I understand it, this is primarily a museum and visitor center where nothing is manufactured. The visitor center has a demonstration of how crayons are made, and the museum houses some the retired colors (Indian Red, Prussian Blue). Yes, it’s a bit misleading to call it “The Factory”, but I guess you can get away with such a ruse when your primary demographic is six-year-olds.

Solar power! In 2010, Crayola put together a fifteen acre solar farm to supply one third of the power to their Easton, Pennsylvania factory. According to the company, this will prevent 1900 tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year.

I loved to color when I was a kid. Heck, I still like to color. When my kids get out the crayon box, I can get downright childish. But some of these other brands are scarcely better than a stick of colored wax. You’ll wear yourself out trying to get a proper line out of them. Crayons are cheap, so lately, when my son or daughter is coloring, I scrutinize the crayon. If it’s trouble, it’s gone. Straight into the trash. I know it’s wasteful, but I want my children to enjoy coloring. Sue me. My kids have a fair amount of crayons. We pick them up here and there at birthday parties or restaurants or as gifts. I don’t recall needing to buy any… yet. Now that I’ve culled the herd, I’m going to restock with a proper crayon.

Crayola Crayons

I'm happy to report that my handwriting has improved substantially.

My mom found these in her basement. I can't believe that only one of the crayons is missing and only one is broken. One of the crayons is a Crayolet, which as a company that Crayola bought in the 1960s, and continued to operate under the Crayolet name for until the early 1980s.