The History of Crayola Crayons

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The first crayons were made of a mixture of charcoal and oil. Later, it was discovered that substituting wax for the oil in the mixture made the crayon sticks sturdier and easier to handle. But it was still necessary to make a safe coloring tool that could be used by children.  Here is the story of Crayola.

The Start of Crayola
Around 1885, Edwin Binney, and C. Harold Smith, formed the partnership of Binney & Smith. The cousins expanded the company's product line to include shoe polish and printing ink. In 1900, the company purchased a stone mill in Easton, Pennsylvania, and began making slate pencils for schools. This started Binney's and Smith's research into nontoxic and colorful drawing tools for kids. They had already invented a new wax crayon used to mark crates and barrels, however, it was loaded with carbon black which was too toxic, or poisonous to be used by children. 

A New Kids Crayon is Born
In 1903, (one hundred years ago) a new brand of crayons with superior working qualities was introduced; they called them Crayola Crayons.Crayola brand crayons, the first kids crayons ever made, were invented by cousins, Edwin Binney and C. Harold Smith. The first box of eight Crayola crayons was sold in 1903. The crayons were sold for a nickel and the colors were black, brown, blue, red, purple, orange, yellow, and green. The word Crayola was created by Alice Stead Binney (wife of Edwin Binney) who took the French words for chalk (craie) and oily (oleaginous) and combined them to get the word "CRAYOLA." In English, crayons remind us of an oily chalk.  Stronger than chalk, but more waxy than oily, crayons have become the drawing tools for millions of children all over the world.

In 1903, soon after developing them, Binney & Smith sold the first box of eight Crayola crayons for one nickel. The box includes black, brown, blue, red, purple, orange, yellow, and green.  Today, there over one hundred different types of crayons being made by Crayola including crayons that: sparkle with glitter, glow in the dark, smell like flowers, change colors, and wash off walls and other surfaces and materials.

Crayola Crayon Colors Timeline

Binney & Smith Co. introduces the first Crayola Crayons. There are 8 colors in a box:

black blue brown
green orange red
violet yellow  

There are 40 colors added

apricot bittersweet blue green
blue violet brick red burnt sienna
carnation pink cornflower flesh
gold gray green blue
green yellow lemon yellow magenta
mahogany maize maroon
melon olive green orange red
orange yellow orchid periwinkle
pine green Prussian blue red orange
red violet salmon sea green
silver spring green tan
thistle turquoise blue violet blue
violet red white yellow green
yellow orange    

There are now 48 colors in the biggest box of Crayola Crayons.

There are 16 colors added:

aquamarine blue gray burnt orange
cadet blue copper forest green
goldenrod Indian red lavender
mulberry navy blue plum
raw sienna raw umber sepia
sky blue    

There are now 64 colors in the biggest box of Crayola Crayons.
For the first time, the big box comes with a built-in sharpener.

In response to educators' requests, “Prussian blue” is renamed “midnight blue.” Teachers felt that children were no longer familiar enough with Prussian history to recognize that this crayon color referred to the famous deep-blue uniforms of Prussian soldiers.


Partly in response to the civil rights movement, Crayola decides to change the name of the “flesh” crayon to “peach.” Renaming this crayon was a way of recognizing that skin comes in a variety of shades.

There are 8 fluorescent colors added:

atomic tangerine blizzard blue hot magenta
laser lemon outrageous orange screamin' green
shocking pink wild watermelon  

The original names in 1972 were changed to these in 1990.

There are now 72 colors in the biggest box of Crayola Crayons.

There are 16 colors added:

cerulean dandelion electric lime
fuchsia jungle green magic mint
neon carrot purple pizzazz radical red
razzle dazzle rose royal purple sunglow
teal blue unmellow yellow wild strawberry
vivid tangerine    

There are 8 colors retired:

blue gray green blue lemon yellow
maize orange red orange yellow

raw umber

violet blue


There are now 80 colors in the biggest box of Crayola Crayons.

Crayola felt that the retired colors (and their names) were too dull to appeal to children today.

There are 16 colors added:




granny smith apple

macaroni and cheese


pacific blue

purple mountain's majesty


robin's egg blue


tickle me pink

timber wolf

tropical rain forest





There are now 96 colors in the biggest box of Crayola Crayons.

Crayon lovers chose the 16 newest color names through Crayola's “Name the New Color Contest,” part of the company's 90th anniversary celebration.

There are 24 colors added:


antique brass

banana mania


blue bell

brink pink


Caribbean green

cotton candy


desert sand



fuzzy wuzzy brown


mountain meadow

outer space

pig pink

pink flamingo

purple heart


sunset orange

torch red

vivid violet

There are now 120 colors in the biggest box of Crayola Crayons.

In response to educators' requests, “Indian red” is renamed “chestnut.” Contrary to popular belief, the original name of this color was not meant to represent the skin color of Native Americans. Instead, the name referred to a reddish pigment from India that was often used in oil paints.

The new name was the winner of a contest that attracted more than 250,000 entries. Other ideas for renaming the color included “crab claw red,” “mars red,” “baseball mitt,” “red clay,” and “old penny.”

Thistle was removed and replaced by indigo; torch red was given a new name scarlet.

A number of small “specialty sets” of Crayola Crayons are available. These include glitter crayons, pearl brite crayons, and techno-brite crayons.

What do you think is America's favorite Crayola Crayon color?  If you guessed blue, you are right.  
Out of the top 10 favorites, 8 different shades of blue were the best liked.  
For more information about America's 50 favorite colors, click here.

Answer the following questions about Crayola Crayons. 

  1. What two words make the word crayola?  Use English words.
  2. Name the two people who invented Crayola Crayons.
  3. In what year were Crayola Crayons first sold?
  4. How much did the first box of Crayola Crayons cost, and how many crayons were in the first box of Crayolas?
  5. Of what two things were the first crayons made?
  6. Name the crayon colors that were in the first box of Crayolas.
  7. In what year was the built-in sharpener added to the box?
  8. In what year were the first florescent colors added?
  9. How many colors are in the largest Crayola Crayons box now?
  10. What was the name of the person who gave Crayola Crayons their name?