Articles & Features
Shapes, Figures, and Canisters - Oh My!
Not all crayon containers are created equal. Sure, the majority are your everyday rectangular or square boxes, but there are also a whole plethora of unusual shaped containers. Perhaps the oldest are the wooden canisters. Which came first, the paper box or the wooden canister? Hard to determine, most likely the canister but I personally have boxes and canisters just as old dating back to the late 1800s. Most of the research documentation only goes back to the turn of the century. American Crayon Co put out their first crayon catalog in 1902 and it contained both canisters and paper boxes. American Pencil did a lot of canisters for crayons as did Standard Crayon. Even Crayola offered at least one canister. These canisters were made of wood and they opened at about the halfway mark. Most of these canisters had paper labels covering the wood and acting as seal from opening them. Once opened, the paper labels would be torn. Obviously for collectors, the ideal example would be to have one that was unopened so the label stayed intact. These canisters typically contained either 7, 9 or 14 crayons in them. They are quite rare in any condition.
But crayon containers don't just come in wooden canisters. You name it, they've may have tried it. From vehicles such as Crayola's school bus and truck to a dragster that holds one crayon. Prang put out a tin bus in Europe. A German company produced a castle that holds six crayons and has a lever that allows you to lift up one of the crayons. Hasbro put out a clown holder as did another brand from China.
Perhaps one of the most interesting companies to use figure shaped containers was Brodhaven Mfg. In the 1920s and 1930s, they put out numerous wooden shaped crayon holders with everything from girls and boys to animals to an airplane. Who knows how many of these they produced. I think I have documented around a dozen different Brodhaven figures at the time of this writing. Perhaps the most unique is the airplane in which the crayons tuck into the plane's body and then accessed by removing the paper "propeller". Many of them looked to be hand drawn.
Finally, the traditional paper crayon box itself has been rethought into different shapes to accommodate the design of the package. One such design was a rocker shape similar to a boat with the crayon "box" nestled like a cradle in the middle. These particular designed boxes held ten jumbo sized crayons. Milton Bradley and Peter Austin Mfg. out of Canada used this particular design. Art Crayon is another company that used additional material to shape a design from the box. In the case of the box with the elephant, the wheels actually work.
All in all, these examples provide a refreshing change from the endless rectangular boxes out there. Who knows what else will turn up in the future? Happy collecting