Who Invented Crayons?

January 26, 2011

Oh those Crayolas!

So what is the story behind the lowly Crayola?   Contrary to popular belief, Crayola did not invent crayons.  They just know how to make their product a household standard, get it everywhere, and used by every kid or school in the country.  Pretty clever, that.

Actually crayons, as we sort of know them, were first used in Europe centuries ago as a mixture of oil and charcoal.  As time went on, the need for pigments motivated the addition of powdered pigments.  Somehow, someone figured out that wax was a better substitution for the oil since it made the crayons easier to handle, less crumbly and more durable.  Viola: wax crayons.

Crayolas weren’t invented until 1902 and not even sold until 1903 by Binney &  Smith.  Apparently, Alice Binney was a school teacher and the wife of Edwin Binney, co-founder of Binney & Smith.  Alice coined the word ‘crayola’ from the French word for chalk, (chaie), and ‘ola’ from oleaginous to describe the wax product we now know as Crayola crayons.  Crayolas consist of paraffin wax and color pigment and are determined to be non-toxic to children, (unlike earlier versions of crayons through history).   The smell of Crayolas will take you back, I guarantee it!


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