Sunday, May 12, 2024

Crayola Crayons – We Can Thank A Teacher


By Kathy Kovach

I've never been an artsy person, but when I was a child, I could wield a crayon and color inside the lines . . . mostly. My preferred brand was Crayola, which made its mark on the world in 1903, originally as Binney & Smith. With 19 different sets, they boasted 30 colors.

Making wax art stems from an ancient tradition of melting pigmented wax onto a support, such as wood or stone. It adhered and could then be manipulated while cooling with etching tools, a spatula, or heat source to create depth. This technique is called encaustic painting, first used in ancient Greece and Egypt. Pliny the Elder, a Roman scholar from the 1st Century AD, included the technique in his writings. The term originates from the ancient Greek words for “burning in” and “to burn”. The following video shows a brief tutorial on this fascinating method.

Encaustic painting
Neither I nor any of my preschool buddies were allowed to play with molten wax. Thank goodness someone invented the crayon.

The first hand-held medium became popular in late 1400s Europe. Charcoal and oils were combined to create pastels. They blended nicely but smudged something awful on the hands and clothes. Pastels are still in use today due to the ease of creativity. The crayon, originally meaning “chalk pencil” in French, were created by replacing the oils with beeswax. Joseph Lemercier, a French lithographer in 1828, is considered the father of the modern crayon.

E. Steiger and Company first produced wax crayons in 1881. They sold theirs in box sets of six, twelve, or eighteen colors. Then came the Franklin Manufacturing Company, who introduced its crayons at the Worlds Columbian Expedition in 1883. Their sets came in Rainbow, Radiant, Penguin, and Educational. I can imagine what the first three sets looked like, but Educational?

Franklin crayons

Enter Joseph W. Binney, mid-1860s, founder of the Peekskill Chemical Company in New York, who produced red oxide pigment, commonly used in barn paint, and carbon black for tires. Joseph’s son Edwin Binney and his nephew C. Harold Smith worked the business until they branched out to form a new company in 1885. This company sold printing ink and shoe polish, but Smith was constantly trying to expand their product line.

In 1900, colored pencils for schools were added. Alice Binney, wife of Edwin and a school teacher, suggested they start producing inexpensive crayons. Not only would they be more cost-effective, but the caustic chemicals in the pencils could be avoided.

Thus, we can thank a teacher for the most popular brand of crayons, beloved by schoolchildren everywhere. She even was privileged to name the new company, choosing Crayola, stemming from two French words: Craie, meaning chalk, and Ola, meaning oily.

Crayola 64, with Built-In Sharpener!

Crayola wasn’t just for child’s play. Their professional sets were put out as Rubens Crayola. With fun colors such as Flesh Tint, Gold Ochre, and Madder Lake, as well as, Flamingo Pink, Fire Fly Yellow, Pink Pearl, Ruby Red, and Rust an accomplished artist could “paint” masterpieces with a wax stick. In fact, their tagline in 1903 was “Painting with Crayola”.
One set in near mint condition sold for $278 in 2013.
From melted wax to pastels to crayons, the preschooler inside of me is grateful for all that went into the invention of a little colorful stick. My favorite color was periwinkle. What was yours?
Crayola Company founded 1903


A secret. A key. Much was buried on the Titanic, but now it's time for resurrection.

Follow two intertwining stories a century apart. 1912 - Matriarch Olive Stanford protects a secret after boarding the Titanic that must go to her grave. 2012 - Portland real estate agent Ember Keaton-Jones receives the key that will unlock the mystery of her past... and her distrusting heart.
To buy: Amazon

Kathleen E. Kovach is a Christian romance author published traditionally through Barbour Publishing, Inc. as well as indie. Kathleen and her husband, Jim, raised two sons while living the nomadic lifestyle for over twenty years in the Air Force. Now planted in northeast Colorado, she's a grandmother and a great-grandmother—though much too young for either. Kathleen has been a longstanding member of American Christian Fiction Writers. An award-winning author, she presents spiritual truths with a giggle, proving herself as one of God's peculiar people.


  1. So cool. My favorite color was blue. But having a box of 64 and all those cool shades was magical.

  2. Thank you for this post today. Happy Mother's Day! I love so many colors, and agree that the big box of Crayons was the bomb!!!