The Definitive History of the Colors of Crayola
Part 2 – The original color line up
This is a multi-part series of articles written to tell the tale of the history of color names for Crayola.
You can visit earlier parts here: Part 1 – In the Beginning there was…
The Original Crayola Colors
What were the colors Crayola produced during their initial couple of years, say 1903-1905? According to their ad they had thirty different colors in their production. Again, the reality was that they had a few more. The difficulty with researching their original color palate was that none of their documentation (ad, pamphlets or catalogs) lists their colors. However, the flagship box on their Crayola line, the No 51 assortment, happens to list the 28 colors in that assortment (the number 100 had more colors with 30 but they were all unwrapped and checking those colors against some of the other crayons in their lineup, not all the colors were represented there).
The Crayola No 51 contained: Black, Burnt Sienna, Burnt Umber, Celestial Blue, Charcoal Gray, Chrome Green Light, Chrome Green Medium, Chrome Green Dark, Cobalt Blue, English Vermillion, Flesh Tint, Golden Ochre, Indian Red, Lemon Yellow, Madder Lake, Medium Yellow, Olive Green, Orange, Prussian Blue, Purple, Raw Sienna, Raw Umber, Rose Pink, Ultramarine Blue, Van Dyke Brown, Venetian Red Light, Venetian Red Dark, White
These crayons don’t actually have the color name printed right on the wrappers. Instead, they have the color number from the box printed on them. One had to go back to the box to determine what color they were using. This same reference technique was used on the No 41, No 49 and No 57 assortments. Each of those boxes contained merely a smaller assortment from the same color line up as the No. 51.
Since the No. 51 box had only 28 colors and that isn’t the 30 that the ad mentions, we have to look across all the other boxes from the original Crayola line up. If we open those up (and I have done so or at least have documented them all), what other colors would we find? The next largest assortment is the Rubens No 500 with 24 colors. It contained Black, Burnt Sienna, Burnt Umber, Green Dark, Green Light, Green Medium, Cobalt Blue, English Vermilion, Flesh Tint, Gold Ochre, Indian Red, Light Yellow, Yellow Medium, Olive Green, Orange, Prussian Blue, Purple, Permanent Magenta, Raw Umber, Rose Pink, Ultramarine Blue, Venetian Red, White
Several colors are the same and yet called different color names:
Green Dark was the same color as Chrome, Green Dark
Green Light was the same color as Chrome, Green Light
Green Medium was the same color as Chrome, Green Medium
Golden Ochre was the same as Gold Ochre
Lemon Yellow and Light Yellow were the same color in appearance and true color
Yellow Medium was the same as Medium Yellow
Color #29, Permanent Magenta, was a unique color to add to the original 28 colors from the No 51.
Color #30, Venetian Red, was also a unique color to add to the original 28 colors from the No 51.
The Crayola No 47 was a 24 color assortment that contained: Black, Burnt Umber, Charcoal Gray, Chrome Green Dark, Chrome Green Light, Chrome Green Medium, Chrome Yellow Light, Chrome Yellow Medium, Cobalt Blue, English Vermilion, Flesh Tint, Gold Ochre, Indian Red, Madder Lake, Olive Green, Orange, Prussian Blue, Raw Sienna, Raw Umber, Rose Pink, Ultramarine Blue, Venetian Red, Violet, White. No new colors were offered in this that weren’t already on the original list.
Chrome Yellow, Light was the same as Light Yellow
The Crayola No 54 was an 8 color assortment that contained: Black, Blue, Brown, English Vermilion, Green, Orange, Yellow, Violet
Again, more colors were the same but with different color names:
Brown was the same as Van Dyke Brown
Violet was the same as Purple
Color #31, Blue was unique and different from all the other blues.
Color #32, Green, was unique and different from all the other greens.
Color #33, Yellow, was unique and different from all the other yellows.
The Crayola No 53 was a 7 color assortment that contained: Black, Blue, Green Medium, Orange, Red, Violet, Yellow
Color #34, Red, was unique and different from all the other reds.
The Rubens-Crayola No 6 was a 6 color assortment that contained: Burnt Sienna, Ch. Green Dk., Chr Yellow
Chrome Yellow, Medium was the same as Medium Yellow (or Yellow, Medium)
The Rubens-Crayola No 12 was a 12 color assortment that contained: BLACK, Burnt Sienna, Burnt Umber, Chr Green L, Eng. Vermilion, Madder Lake, Med. Green, ORANGE, Prussian Blue, Ult. Blue, VIOLET, Yellow Lt. No new colors are added to our list from this assortment although it did provide a few more new abbreviations of already listed colors.
The Rubens-Crayola No 18 was an 18 color assortment that contained: Burnt Umber, CHR. GREEN L, Chr. Yellow Med., Eng. Vermilion, Madder Lake, MED. GREEN, Prussian Blue, ULT. BLUE, Violet, White, YELLOW, BLACK, Burnt Sienna, Gold Ochre, Magenta, Olive Green, ORANGE, Rose Pink. No new colors are added to our list from this assortment.
Magenta was the same as Permanent Magenta.
The Rubens-Crayola No 24 was a 24 color assortment that contained: Black, Burnt Sienna, Burnt Umber, CHR. GREEN L, Cobalt Blue, Dark Green, Eng. Vermilion, Flesh Tint, Gold Ochre, Ind. Red, Madder Lake, Magenta, Med. Green, Med. Yellow, Olive Green, Orange, Prus. Blue, Raw Umber, Rose Pink, Ult. Blue, Ven. Red, VIOLET, White, YELLOW. No new colors are added to our list from this assortment.
The Crayola No 105 Charlton was an 8 color assortment made specifically for the E.F. Charlton stores (one of the retail chains that helped to form Woolworth). It contained: Brown, Gold Ochre, Chr Green Lt., Light Blue, Dark Blue, Pink and two not labeled (Black? and Violet?)
Pink was the same as Rose Pink.
Light Blue was the same as Cobalt Blue (amazingly so…it was a unique name used only in this box and that color name wasn’t used again for many, many years)
Dark Blue, was the same as Prussian Blue
Other assortments such as the No 30, 55, 99 and 100 contained crayons without wrappers and therefore don’t have color names that can be documented easily.
The Crayola No 41 has only two existing examples known to still exist; one is sealed and one is an incomplete set. However, all of the colors are merely a subset of the colors numbered for the No 51 assortment. That holds true for the No 49 and No 57 assortments. They were smaller assortments of the larger ones.
One other color exists that was packed into a Rubens-Crayola assortment. The challenge with substantiating the Rubens line was that they weren’t packed with a specific assortment in the same way the Crayola line was. This meant that it took many physical examples to determine what colors were being used at the time.
Color #35, Permanent Geranium Lake, was unique from any other colors.
The Crayola No 101 was a 12 color box that indicated right on the box
that it contained a “decorative assortment” designed for Artist’ Sketching
needs. The box lid also says “Including
Gold, Silver and Copper.” The box
actually contains Black,
Blue, Brown, Green, Copper,
Color #36, Gold, was unique from any other colors.
Color #37, Silver, was unique from any other colors.
Color #38, Copper, was unique from any other colors.
As this represents all of the containers known during the 1903-1905 era, the list of unique colors stands at 38:
Brown (also known as Van Dyke Brown)
Cobalt Blue (also known as Light Blue)
(also known as Vermillion, English Vermilion)
Golden Ochre (also known as Gold Ochre)
Green (also known as Chrome Green)
Green, Dark (also known as Chrome Green, Dark)
Green, Light (also known as Chrome Green, Light)
Green, Medium (also known as Chrome Green, Medium)
(also known as Light Yellow, Chrome Yellow, Light)
Permanent Magenta (also known as Magenta)
Pink (also known as Rose Pink)
Prussian Blue (also known as Dark Blue)
Purple (also known as Violet)
Venetian Red, Dark
Venetian Red, Light
Yellow, Medium (also known as Chrome Yellow, Medium)