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Crayolas Turn 100

Author Cathlena Martin
Air Date 12/18/2003

Crayolas Turn 100 Transcript

Remember the fresh, waxy smell mingled with back-to-school excitement and the urge to pick our your favorite color and begin a picture. That smell of Crayola crayons lingers with us even into adulthood. “According to a Yale University study, the scent of Crayola crayons is among the 20 most recognizable to American adults. Coffee and peanut butter are one and two. Crayola crayons are 18.”

Crayola crayons have become part of childhood over the 100 years they have been produced. The Binney & Smith company begin making crayons in 1903. Their first box consisted of eight crayons (black, brown, blue, red, violet, orange, yellow and green) that sold for a nickel. The brand was named Crayola, which was a combination of the French word for chalk (“craie”) and “ola,” from “oleaginous” ( By the 1950s, the brand name Crayola had become synonymous with crayon; the box had expanded to 64 crayons; and a child could now put a point back on blunt crayons with a sharpener embedded in the box. This is a key addition because, according to the Crayola webpage, “The average child in the United States will wear down 730 crayons by his 10th birthday (or 11.4 boxes of 64s).” Crayola has even developed the “Crayola Maker,” a way for children to recycle small crayon nubs into new crayons. However, sometimes it isn’t new products that are needed, but new crayon colors. A number of times over the past hundred years, Crayola has updated its colors’ names for new generations tired of boring blue and faded yellow. Now there’s Purple Mountain Majesty and Razzmatazz. And for its 100th anniversary this year, Crayola sponsored a contest to name four new colors. The winning names are: jazzberry jam, mango tango, wild blue yonder, and inch worm. To make way for these new colors in their box of 96 crayons, Crayola had to retire four others. Again, school children were asked to vote for their favorite from five colors the company wanted to drop. The kids decided to keep burnt sienna and voted off blizzard blue, teal blue, mulberry, and magic mint.

But renaming colors is not the only revamping Crayola has done in its 100 years. Today if you walk into a kid’s toy store, you’ll find shelves-full of variations on the theme of the standard box of crayons: glitter and glow-in-the-dark crayons, every shade of colored pencil, and a rainbow of markers — some of them even with scents like chocolate, cherry, and grape. Let’s hope that crayons will remain a relatively inexpensive way to spur creativity — and another century of memories. After all, Memory is the mother of the muses — and straight from an aromatic crayon box, she smells terrific.


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