The History of Crayons
Part 8 – Enter the Small Players
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, Part 5 – Early Crayola, Part 6 – The Golden Era, Part 7 – Changing and Growing
The New Guys in Town
The decade from 1910 to 1920 brought a lot of expansion to the crayon industry from all fronts. It directly reflected the country as a whole; the prosperous industrial revolution was moving forward and the crayon industry continued to grow in size. Several new companies tried their hand at crayon manufacturing. In 1911, Atkinson, Mentzer and Grover debuted a crayon of their own, the C-r-a-y-o. Hydraulic pressed crayons were the easiest of the products to get started with for a company new to the market. They didn’t require the molding machines needed to create a wax school crayon and the pressed crayons were preferred in the art communities.
Atkinson, Mentzer & Grover were by no means a startup company. Based in Chicago, IL, they provided an assortment of classroom materials and textbook publications. Their operations had already expanded with offices in New York, Boston, Atlanta and Dallas by the time they got into the crayon manufacturing. However, like many companies that introduced crayons during the next 30 or so years, they were either not focus enough in the crayon market to make inroads or they weren’t large enough to do so. The crayon market could accommodate a lot of choices for the consumer at this time but the reality was that to become a major player in the market required a serious investment in advertising and product creation.
The next year in 1912, the Pennsylvania Stationery Supply Company introduced the Favoral crayon line. Located out of Easton, PA, they were right next to the Crayola operation of Binney & Smith. While no documentation exists, it is highly probable that they subcontracted with Binney & Smith for their own line of crayons to put into their stationery stores rather than try and manufacture their own crayons.
They produced both an 8 color box and a 16 colors box (one example of each has survived) and based on the back of the box identifying 30 colors (which corresponded to Crayola’s advertised color palate exactly), they may have had other assortments produced as well. All of their crayons had wrappers with the color names on them; just like Crayola did.
F. Weber was another company that stayed partially involved in the crayon industry with products as early as Sep 1914.
They continued supplying crayon related products clear into the 1930s. However, as they were primarily focused on many art supplies, crayons were only a minor focus and they did not put the energy into expanding their presence in the industry.
The Colonial Crayon Company took a different route for profit. They marketed their chalks and crayons as exports into other countries. Instead of trying to fight their way into the ever increasingly saturated domestic market, they found that there was money to be made overseas. If Europe could so by successfully selling to the United States, Colonial could do the same by going the other way. In truth, many of the larger crayon companies had offices set up in London or Paris and had some sales or relationships in the European marketplace. Colonial chose to advertise in the American Exporter periodical rather than the standard educational ones their counterparts were using.
This ad from Nov 1915 features two of their crayon products. Since all of these crayons were marketed and sold overseas, unfortunately none of their wax crayon products have survived to date. Their pictured ad remains the only documentation of their part in the crayon industry history.
Their chalk production existed long before they dabbled into crayons however and both the dovetailed wooden gross boxes and their smaller tuck boxes can be found in collections throughout the country.
Given that there isn’t any other documentation known at the time, it is difficult to determine just when they ceased operations for good. No other advertising, catalog references or price lists can substantiate their operating timeline and so while we know they took a shot in the crayon market, we don’t know for how long. They are just another of the many unsolved mysteries that exist in the industry; awaiting some other evidence to help color in that piece of history.
Other companies chose to focus more on a local market and not try to expand out larger. Some companies were just too small to make it on their own. Only their product and advertising leaves a small mark on the industry history now. One such company was A.L. Solomon & Co. out of New York. They were essentially a one man start up that got some investors and produced a crayon product but ultimately didn’t make it and mired themselves in legal battles with their investors for years after that. Regardless of their outcome, their product survives to this day and helps color in a small piece of crayon history.
Scott Foresman & Company was another such small player in the industry. They got started with their own crayon operations out of Chicago, IL and set up an office in New York as well. They focused on a number of school supplies, crayons being one such item. They didn’t survive in the industry very long, however, choosing to focus on their educational publishing pursuits instead. They were in business around the turn of the century and staying in business into the 1930s, but not in the crayon industry.
The National Crayon Company produced a line of wax crayons as well. Located out of West Chester, PA, they sold a line of wax crayons called Waxola. Their presence in the crayon market was limited. The company primarily focused on their chalks. Little is known about the company but they were selling chalk as early as the 1880s and perhaps even earlier. The company survived to the end of the 1920s but may have been a victim of the Great Depression as I can find no other reference for them after 1929. No surviving Waxola assortments have yet surfaced and the only mention of them is from a directory listing in Nov of 1914.
Finally, the Practical Drawing Publishing Co. out of Dallas, TX produced the Craocolor assortment in 1915. There are a few school references to substantiate the age of these crayons but other than a couple of surviving boxes, not much is known about the product. The company marketed a series of drawing tutorial courses that one could purchase. Obviously they expanded their scope of drawing supplies to include their own line of crayons. It doesn’t look like the line survived into the next decade, however.