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The History of Crayons

Part 5 – Early Crayola

This is a multi-part series of articles written to tell the tale of the history of the wax crayon. 

You can visit earlier parts here:  Part 1 – Origins, Part 2 – The Wax Crayon Pioneers, Part 3 – Invasion of the Pencil Industry, Part 4 – Turn of the Century



Early Crayola


Much has been documented on selling the first Crayola boxes door to door for a nickel.  But Binney & Smith had a full line of products from the very beginning.  Crayola came into the marketplace in June of 1903 and by early 1904 they published a small mini-tutorial pamphlet instructing consumers on how to paint using their new product.  The pamphlet was available for 10 cents and along with their instructions it featured a picture of thirteen of their original product line assortments.


Crayola 1904
                      Pamphlet.bmp


Two common themes resided in nearly all of their packaging.  The first was a little girl that was featured on the back of nearly every single crayon box on their standard Crayola line.  The second was Peter Paul Rubens pictured on their higher end line they used to target artists.  In terms of the Crayola name logo, the earliest of their product was inconstant; as if they were experimenting with various fonts and looks for the Crayola line.  It wouldn’t be until they formulated the Gold Medal concept in 1905 that they would start to adapt to a standard look among all of their assortments.


Crayola
                      Victorian Girl.bmp


The first advertisements for Crayola started in late 1904 and by 1905 they were really starting to get the word out.  Their reputation was growing quickly too.  In 1904, after they published the mini-pamphlet “The Art of Crayola Coloring” they held a coloring contest with prizes to promote their new product.


1905 Jan 7
                      Crayola Contest Results Ad.bmp


Shortly after their contest advertising campaign, in March 1905, they moved to a more generic ad to feature their new product.  Their March 1905 ad in the New York Teacher’s Monographs revealed that they already carried a catalog of 18 different assortments containing 30 different crayon colors.  What might these 18 different assortments be?  Binney & Smith Co. used a numbering system for all of their crayon assortment containers.  The following containers were available at the end of 1905:  No 6, No 8, No 12, No 18, No 24, No 30, No 41, No 41B, No 45, No 47, No 49, No 51, No 51B, No 53, No 54, No 55, No 57, No 97, No 99, No 99A, No 100, No 101, No 105, No 105 Charlton, No 200 and No 500.  Interestingly, they actually had 26 available containers by that time.  Some of these might have been added in the interim between when the ad was created and the end of the year.  Another answer is that they simply didn’t list all of the available assortments in their ads.  This seemed to be a common trait among all the manufacturers to not be inclusive when printing catalogs, ads and jobber booklets.  For whatever reason, they would focus only on a subset to feature.  This practice makes it difficult to go back and properly document the timelines for some crayons.


CrayolaMar1905ad.bmp


The Original Crayola Colors


But what of the colors they produced back during their formative years?  According to their ad they had thirty different colors in their production.  Again, the reality is that they had a few more.  The difficulty with researching their original color palate is 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 has more colors with 30 but they are all unwrapped and checking their colors against some of the other crayons in their lineup, it still appears that not all the colors were represented there).


Crayola No
                      51.bmp


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


But that isn’t 30 that the ad mentions.  Across the other 18 or so assortments from this era, 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 seem to be the same and yet called different color names:
Green Dark is the same color as Chrome, Green Dark
Green Light is the same color as Chrome, Green Light
Green Medium is the same color as Chrome, Green Medium
Golden Ochre is the same as Gold Ochre
Lemon Yellow and Light Yellow seem to be the same color in appearance and when used
Yellow Medium is the same as Medium Yellow


Color #29, Permanent Magenta, is a unique color to add to the original 28 colors from the No 51.
Color #30, Venetian Red, is 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.

The Crayola No 54 was an 8 color assortment that contained:  Black, Blue, Brown, English Vermilion, Green, Orange, Yellow, Violet

Again, more colors seem to be the same but with different color names:
Brown is the same as Van Dyke Brown
Blue is the same as Celestial Blue
Violet is the same as Purple

Color #31, Green, is unique and different from all the other greens.
Color #32, Yellow, is 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 #33, Red, is 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 Med., Madder Lake, PRUSSIAN BLUE, WHITE.  No new colors are added to our list from this assortment.

Chrome Yellow, Medium is 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 is 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 is the same as Rose Pink.
Light Blue is the same as Blue (amazing so…it’s a unique name used only in this box until much later)

Color #34, Dark Blue, is unique and different from all the other blues

Other assortments such as the No 30, 55, 99, 100 contained crayons without wrappers and therefore don’t have color names that can be documented easily.

The Crayola No 41 has only two know; 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.  The holds true for the No 53 and No 49 assortments.  They are 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 is that they weren’t packed with a specific assortment in the same way the Crayola line was.  This means that it took many physical examples to determine what colors were being used at the time.

Color #35, Permanent Geranium Lake, is 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, Eng. Vermilion, Gold, Orange, Purple, Silver, White, Yellow.

Color #36, Gold, is unique from any other colors.
Color #37, Silver, is unique from any other colors.
Color #38, Copper, is 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:


Black
Blue (also known as Celestial Blue, Chrome Blue, Light Blue)

Crayola Studio and
          School - 8 colors.jpgBrown (also known as Van Dyke Brown)
Burnt Sienna
Burnt Umber
Charcoal Gray
Cobalt Blue

Copper
Dark Blue
English Vermillion (also known as Vermillion, English Vermilion)
Flesh Tint
Gold
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)
Indian Red
Lemon Yellow (also known as Light Yellow, Chrome Yellow, Light)
Madder Lake

Rubens Crayola No 500 -
          24 colors.JPGOlive Green
Orange
Permanent Geranium Lake
Permanent Magenta
Pink (also known as Rose Pink)

Prussian Blue
Purple (also known as Violet)
Raw Sienna
Raw Umber
Red
Silver
Ultramarine Blue
Yellow
Yellow, Medium (also known as Chrome Yellow, Medium)
Venetian Red
Venetian Red, Dark
Venetian Red, Light
White


From that point on, Crayola continue to add, discontinue and redefine their color offerings up to the current day.  The entire story on their colors is a long detailed story in and of itself; one full of interesting twists and back stories.  But these represented the starting point for Binney & Smith.


Next:  Part 6 – The Golden Era