The History of Crayons
Part 3 – Invasion of the Pencil Industry
This is a multi-part series of articles written to tell the tale of the history of the wax crayon.
The pencil industry in America was long established by the time the need for wax crayons surfaced in the 1880s and 1890s. They had already expanded from graphite pencils to colored pencils. Colored pencils were simiar except that instead of filling the core with graphite, they filled it with wax and pigment to attain various colors. While they can be considered a wax medium for drawing, their ability to behave as a pastel or wax crayons for full coloring was limited due to the narrow chamber in which to put the colored wax inside the pencil.
Seeing the growing demand in schools and art facilities, most of the major pencil manufacturers of the late 1800s expanded their product lines to include the modern wax crayon in either a molded crayon or pressed crayon (or both).
The Eberhard Faber Pencil Company was one of the earliest to adapt to the new medium. Originally the A.W. Faber Compmpany, the renamed Eberhard Faber Pencil Company was founded by Eberhard Faber (1822-1879) in 1861. The company is primarily credited with bringing German lead pencil-making techniques to the United States. The Faber family was known for lead pencil manufacturing in the village of Stein, Germany, near the city of Nuremburg as early as 1761 when the business was founded by Kasper Faber. His son Anton Faber took over in 1784 and the company came to be known as the A.W. Faber Company. Anton's grandson, Johann Lothar, took charge of the business in 1839.
Johann Lothar's youngest son, Eberhard Faber (1822-1829), came to the United States in 1848. He settled in New York City, and by 1850, had opened a store selling pencils and other stationery items in Manhattan. In 1861, Faber opened the American manufacturing branch of A.W. Faber, in a factory close to the East River, near 42nd Street, where the United Nations now stands. It was the first pencil factory opened in the United States. After a fire destroyed the original factory, they moved their location to Brooklyn.
Faber also developed his own live of wax crayons, initially surrounced by cedar wood, by as early as 1883. E. Faber's wax crayons were available in packages of 6,12, 18, 24 and 36 assorted colors. Later in the century they would offer traditional all-wax crayons as well.
The Joseph Dixon Crubicle Co. was formed back in March 1868. Joseph Dixon incorporated his company from the existing "Joe Dixon and Company" name when his health went downhill. While the company primarily produced pencils, like many of their contemporaries (E. Faber and Eagle Pencil) they too expanded into a line of wax crayons for offer in 1887. The Dixon Solid Crayons started their journey into the wax crayon industry and were offered in as many as 15 colors by 1902. These were pressed crayons. Pressed crayons are heavier than their molded crayon cousins.
Another pencil company began to offer up crayons in the mid 1880s. The Eagle Pencil Company, New York, NY, featured a line of wax crayons offered up in 6 and 12 count boxes with a color line that included White, Pink, Violet, Terrasienna, Yellow, Blue, Brick Red, Brown, Orange, Red, Green and Black. Eagle Pencil began in 1856 and quickly became one of the four major pencil manufacturers in the United States (Joeseph Dixon Crucible, Eberhard Faber and American Lead Pencil were the others.)
Eventually even American Lead Pencil got in the game with their own brands of crayons putting them in the traditional wooden canister package as well as the more familiar tuck boxes. Their company can be traced back to 1861 but they were the last of the big four to adapt their product line to include wax crayons. Here is an example of an Eagle Pencil box and an American Lead Pencil canister.