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The History of Crayons

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Crayons

Crayons

We've All Used Crayons

At one time crayons were known as wax sticks. Many countries have their unique indigenous type of artwork using their version of crayons. The concept of combining a type of wax with a color pigment evolved thousands of years ago.

Encaustic painting

Encaustic painting

Crayon Techniques

During Roman times, there was something known as Encaustic painting. This is a technique that involves combining beeswax with colored pigment. It was used to bind color to stones. The final step involved in this process used a heat source to fix or burn the image into place. Hot wax painting involved using the paste of beeswax with color pigments. They are melted and quickly applied to a surface of wood or stone. When the beeswax was still in its molten form, an artist would use a natural brush made out of trees or metal tools to engrave the image. This was a common type of artwork found among the ancient Greeks, Romans as well as Egyptians.

François Clouet

François Clouet

Early Crayon Artists

Two early French artists are recognized for being some of the earliest people to use a form of crayons in their artwork. François Clouet lived from 1510 to 1572. He is remembered for being the first person to use a type of crayon to make modeled portraits. They were so impressive that the portraits caught the eye of Henry V, and Clouet was knighted. Clouet was made the official painter for royalty. He had an art career that started when he used wax crayons for his artwork. Nicholas L'agneau lived from 1590 to 1666. He is known for using wax crayons to outline his portraits and combining them with tints of watercolor.

Handheld crayon

Handheld crayon

Handheld Crayons

Europe is where it is believed that the initial versions of contemporary crayons originated. The first cylinder-shaped crayons were made with charcoal and oil. Pastels are a type of art that shares its beginning with the modern crayon. Both date back to the time of the late 1400s and Leonardo da Vinci. A hybrid between conventional crayons and pastels was used in Paris during the late 1790s. They were considered drawing crayons most often used by artists. In time, the primary charcoal ingredient was replaced by different types of powdered pigment. This began during the early 19th century.

Modern Crayon

Joseph Lemercier was a French lithographer. Many consider him to be the inventor of the modern crayon. As he worked his business in 1828, Lemercier was able to create many types of color and crayon-like products. This led to many Europeans learning about the benefits of replacing oil with wax to give the crayon more strength. This is also a time when many efforts concerning the crayon were beginning in the United States.

Wax Coloring Crayons

Charles A. Bowley was from Massachusetts. In the late 1880s, he created wax-coloring crayons. During this time, Bowley was busy selling stationery items. He had created lumps of colored wax for the purpose of marking leather. Bowley realized this creation of his needed more accuracy. This motivated him to return to his home and was determined to develop wax crayons into a shape of something easier to handle. Bowley made them in the shape of a pencil. He packaged his invention and put them in decorative boxes. He offered them for sale to his stationer clients. The demand for Bowley's crayons soon was more than he could handle. He eventually became partners with the American Crayon Company to meet the demand.

Advertisement from Franklin Mfg. Co.

Advertisement from Franklin Mfg. Co.

First Crayon Companies

Several companies initially competed to provide crayons for the art and education markets. This was considered a very lucrative market. Founded in 1876, the Franklin Mfg. Co. of New York was one of the first companies in the United States to manufacture and sell wax crayons. At the World's Columbian Exposition in 1883, they had a display of their wax crayons.

Edwin Binney and C. Harold Smith

Edwin Binney and C. Harold Smith

Creation of Crayola

The Peekskill Chemical Company in New York was started in the late 19th Century. Mr. Joseph W. Binney was its founder. The company was run by his son Edwin Binney. Initially, most of the company's products were red iron oxide used as a color pigment or carbon black used for vehicle tires. A new company was founded in 1885 by C. Harold Smith, he was the nephew of Edwin Binney. The new company was busy selling printing ink and shoe polish. C. Harold Smith was always trying to expand the company's product line and in 1900, the company began producing pencils for schools. Alice Binney was the wife of Edwin Binney. She was a schoolteacher by profession. She suggested to her husband that he try making inexpensive crayons. Alice Binney believed they would be more popular than the color pencils that were expensive. At this time, the pencils produced contained carbon black. This is toxic for children.

Crayola factory

Crayola factory

Creation of Crayola Crayons

Alice Binney's idea was well-received. Her husband decided to replace charcoal with paraffin wax. Many types of color pigments were created to produce crayons with unique hues. This business venture created the well-known crayon manufacturer Crayola. Alice Binney came up with the name Crayola. She combined two French words. The first French word was Craie, which means chalk. The last part of the word comes from the French word ola, which means oily. The Crayola company began producing crayons in 1903. Crayola created boxes of crayons in different sizes. Some contained a minimum of 30 different hues. Perma pressed sharpened crayons for artists were introduced by the company in 1920. In 1936, the company created a craft institute that combined arts and safety to make crayons less toxic. Crayola was also the first to offer a 64-color crayon set with a sharpener. In 2003, Crayola celebrated its 100th year of being in business. The company estimates it produces approximately 3 billion crayons annually. They produce an average of 12 million crayons a day.

Sources

History of Pencils

Crayon Collecting

The Spectator News

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

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