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What is Crayola?

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  • Written By: A. B. Kelsey
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 19 October 2014
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Crayola® is a popular brand of coloring utensils, such as crayons, markers, colored pencils, and chalk. Currently owned by Crayola LLC, the brand has a long and colorful history. The company had its unofficial start back in 1864 when Joseph W. Binney’s Peekskill Chemical Company began producing items in the black and red ranges. His products included the carbon that Goodrich used in their car tires to make the tires black as well as a red iron oxide paint that was used to brighten barns in rural America.

In 1885, Joseph Binney retired and his son and nephew founded a company called Binney & Smith. The two men expanded Joeseph’s original product line to include black shoe polish and printer’s ink. Five years later, Binney & Smith bought a new water-powered stone mill in Easton, Pennsylvania, and started manufacturing slate pencils.

While pitching the new pencils to local educators, the company’s representatives listened to the complaints of the teachers. Soon the Binney & Smith company had developed the first dustless school chalk. Teachers loved this innovative product so much that it won a gold medal at the St. Louis World Exposition.

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Not long afterward, the Binney & Smith salesmen noticed a need for an affordable wax crayon that was safe enough for kids to use. In 1903, the first box of Crayola® crayons made its debut. The box cost five cents and contained eight crayons in the colors of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet, brown, and black. The name “Crayola” was created by Alice Binney, wife of company founder Edwin Binney and an ex-teacher, who combined the words craie, French for "chalk," with ola, which is French for "oily." These crayons were an overnight success and the crayons became the favorite coloring tool for millions of children.

In the 1920s, Binny & Smith added Crayola Rubens crayons, Perma Pressed sharpenable fine art crayons, and Artista paints to their growing product line. In 1948, Binney & Smith decided to instruct art teachers on the various uses of their numerous products. They started a teacher workshop program which continues to this day.

In 1958, the Crayola® 64 Box with its signature built-in sharpener debuted, instantly becoming a favorite with colorers. In 1987, the company further encouraged children to color their world by introducing the first crayons that were easy to wash off walls. These washable markers were an instant hit with both kids and their mothers.

In 1996, Fred Rogers of "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" made it a beautiful day in the neighborhood when he molded the 100-billionth Crayola® crayon. Later that year, the Factory Family Discovery Center in Easton, Pennsylvania, celebrated its opening with the ColorJam parade, the largest gathering ever of people who had a color in their names. In 2003, in celebration of the company's one-hundredth anniversary, the company unveiled the world's largest crayon. This record-breaking, blue crayon was 15 feet (4.5 m) high, 16 inches (40.6 cm) wide, and ten feet (3.04 m) long.

In 1984, the company became a subsidiary of Hallmark® Cards. In 2007, the company officially changed its name from "Binney & Smith" to "Crayola®." The company explained that the name was changed to showcase the well-known brand. The brand is now used in over 80 countries and has an extremely high name recognition rate in US households.

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