Who Invented Crayola Crayons?

I’ve heard many friends say with great conviction that they just want to eat up a helpless toddler or a particularly cute child. I’m sure you’ve heard this too. Who here hasn’t looked at a batch of kindergartners as a metaphorical dessert buffet of cute?

Well, the kids themselves haven’t, because it would seem kindergartners feel about crayons what many people feel about kindergartners. They just want to eat them up!

This was a life-threatening problem back when kindergartens were introduced by Friedrich Froebel in Germany in 1840. Over the next few decades the idea of education for the very young spread all around the world, from Japan to the US. With it spread the idea of play as learning, and the school stationery boom began.

1024px Kochspielstunde im Kindergarten um1900
Kindergarten in Germany – Image: Wikimedia Commons

Crayons are an almost ancient medium, a pigment mixed into an oil or wax to make a drawing stick is an idea as old as art, but with the invention of the modern wax crayon for kids, it became a widespread and democratic artistic medium like none before it. At one point in the late 1800s, there were 300 manufacturers of colorful wax crayons to meet the kindergarten demand. They still used toxic pigments, though, which made it a very unhealthy snack in school.

All this was about to change. Edwin Binney was in the business of producing the black pigment for car tyres in New York in the late 1800s. In 1900, he partnered with his cousin to start the Binney and Smith company. They mined slate to produce pencils. An enterprising pair, they began to use the waste slate powder to create an award winning dustless chalk for schools.

In 1903 they combined wax and safe pigments to produce a box of 8 colour crayons. Mrs. Alice Binney named it Crayola, from a combination of French words meaning oily chalk, and one of the most iconic pieces of contemporary stationery was born to change childhood memories forever.

Crayola No 8 first two
Original 8 Colors in Crayola No. 8 – Image: Wikimedia Commons

When reading up on his life, we came across this quote by the father of Kindergarten himself, Friedrich Froebel. “Children are like tiny flowers: They are varied and need care, but each is beautiful alone and glorious when seen in the community of peers.”

Library relief Wheelock College DSC09864
Bas-relief of Friedrich Fröbel (Froebel), founder of the kindergarten movement
– Image: Wikimedia Commons

Not sure whether he’s talking about kids or a box of crayons here, a colourful comparison we’re sure the imaginative man would have approved of.

Colorful day 31649118987
Assorted Crayola Crayons – Image: Wikimedia Commons

P.S. Here’s a Wikipedia page featuring a swatch of more than 200 types of crayons that Crayola has produced since 1903.

  1. Camel Kokuyo Oil Pastels – https://inkymemo.com/camel-kokuyo-oil-pastels-test/
  2. Staedtler Luna Watercolor Pencils – https://inkymemo.com/staedtler-luna-watercolour-pencils-test/
  3. DOMS Sketch Max Felt Tip Pens – https://inkymemo.com/doms-sketch-max-felt-tip-pens-test/
  4. UNI Posca Paint Markers – https://inkymemo.com/posca-markers-test/
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