A Conversation with the Binney Family

One of the pleasures of doing my website and crayon blog are the interesting people I get to interact with online.  I was just recently contacted by Kristin, a great-great granddaughter of none other than Edwin and Alice Binney.  Of course, everyone should know that they were responsible for Crayola.  While Edwin’s father, Joseph Binney was ultimately the original founder of Binney & Smith (now Crayola), it was Edwin and Alice that took it in the direction of crayons and set forth their amazing growth over a century of success.

Now if you’ve seen my name anywhere on the Internet, I’m a stickler for accuracy when it comes to crayon history.  I leave comments and try to set forth rights from wrongs when it comes to mis-information.  But she had contacted me after reading some pieces of Crayola history where in one part I had mistakenly identified Joseph as Edwin’s uncle and not his father.  I was happy to correct that.  I actually knew that but we all make mistakes and certainly my website has its share of typos, incomplete stories, etc.  But I try to be as factual and unbiased as possible.

It was a pleasure to trade emails on crayon history back and forth.  Interestingly, she is an artist by profession.  What was especially joyful in our email exchanges is that she shared a number of amazing photos that I have never seen before.  Ultimately they will probably end up in the Smithsonian where there is a large volume of records from Crayola.  I know; I spent three solid days just researching that information years ago in order to put the pieces of crayon history together.  It's the right place for them so that others can learn from their heritage as well.

Perhaps the biggest jaw dropping photo was of Alice Binney with her daughters, Dolly and Helen standing by the 1904 St. Louis Exposition display.  This is so significant for crayon history because it was there that they won their gold medal for their anti-dust chalk and then later used that as one of their identifying items on their crayon boxes for the next 50 years!  And Alice was the one that came up with the Crayola name in the first place!  Wow…so impressed that this exists.  I mean, it was 1904 so it’s not like they have a selfie-stick and a mobile phone for photos.  In fact, photos were still uncommon in that era.

But even more astounding is the photo of Joseph Binney.  This is a photo of Joseph Walker Binney from  1854 in his uniform. He was an officer in The Crimean War - Aid De Garrys of Lord Cardigan.

It’s extremely rare to have a photo from the pre-civil war era.  They represent yet another glimpse into our history through the family photos of those who made America what it became.  For that they can be proud of their family heritage.

Another picture of Joseph and Annie Eliza (Conklin) Binney from 1864 was also among the photos.  Taken a bit later, this is also rare as most of the crayon history research I do doesn’t turn up much on the wives of the founders and yet they too are an important part of the history.

And we wouldn't be complete without a photo of Edwin Binney.  I had seen this used before but it is worth sharing again.

She shared several photos of life at the Binney & Smith office.  This would have been the New York office around the 1900-1910 timeframe.  This first is of somebody important to the company sitting at his desk (we are not sure who).

This next one is of employees at the office.  They would have been some of the first employed by the company.  Perhaps with enough research from the Smithsonian, one could identify who some or all of these were.

I love the old typewriting in the shot and the fashion and even small items are all fascinating as they represent a time gone by.  This next one is an expanded photo of the office.

There is a photo of what is believed to be the Binney & Smith chalk mining operation in North Carolina.  The family had a large plantation in North Carolina that they would go to when they weren’t residing in their main home.

It would be interesting to know what became of this and what resides there today.

She also had a picture of Allan F. Kitchel (and his son on the right, Allan F. Kitchel Jr.).  He was the husband of Helen Binney (whom you saw in the first photo when she was young).  He went to work for Edwin and ultimately became the president of Binney & Smith.  He was there for 50 years!  It's a shame we don't see his name associated with Binney & Smith (Crayola) history.  Guess it's time to change that!

I haven’t really written a comprehensive history on Crayola because it has been done pretty well already.  She shared one such article:  https://patch.com/new-york/peekskill/amp/5541821/bp--crayolas-peekskill-history.  I see no reason to simply repeat what has been done very well (and accurately for once!).  But I sure wanted to share this extra special look into the life of the founders who made Crayola what it is.

It was fun sharing email exchanges back and forth with Kristin.  Being the researcher I am, I had a lot of questions.  Of course, some of them might never be answered but this sure gives us a glimpse into those amazing beginning times.  She shared a few more photos of family and their homesteads which I’ve not included here.

No these are not really Crayola crayons!

When a brand gets big enough, you can bet somebody, somewhere will take advantage of that without the authority to do so.

Case in point, Crayola is such a global name in the world of crayons that they are ripe targets for those wanting to capitalize on that for a quick buck.

So I guess it was no surprise when I saw these on a Mexico online sight.  And of course, the collector in me wants a box just for the novelty!  

The Original Mock-Up Prototype Box for the Crayola No 72 line from 1957/58

One of the most interesting Crayola boxes from my collection was this prototype mock-up submitted for the initial box that would become the No 72 line.  

This was in 1957/58 and at a time when the Crayola No 64 was debuting.  That was the largest assortment box ever for Crayola.  This added another 8 crayons on top of that.  There were repeat colors in the box though so it didn't truly add up to 72 distinct colors but still...it would be their largest crayon box to date.

The mock up box is fun.  First of all, it has an actual multipage coloring book attached to the front of it.  The pages are blank on the mock up.  I don't know if they intended anything else because this feature never made it to the initial retail designed box.

Other differences is that the house is on the right.  Also, inside is a styrofoam case that holds each crayon into two rows of 36 crayons.  This appears to be hand made.

Another interesting observation is that this prototype includes the appearance of the rare "Light Blue" color.  This wasn't in the actual retail version.  So, just like the No 64 where that color was only in the earliest version and quickly removed, this prototype probably used what was available at that time even though later that color was removed from Crayola's palette of colors by the time this went to retail.

This is the first retail version of the box.  Notice that the house was moved over to the left side after they removed the coloring book.  Also notice that they added a dog on a leash to fill in the space left behind from the coloring book.  The Chimney got moved to the left side and the picket fence and bush were removed.  The outline of the house went from red to green and white.  They kept the small window but looking in to it you can see that they didn't go with the styrofoam holder for the crayons.  They are merely stacked onto cardboard shelving instead.  Probably a cost saver.  Gone are the entire design piece on the prototype box that was on the left side and they redid the Crayola name piece by removing the whole "Let's Color With" which I thought was unique.

After that version they quickly moved to a version with a much wider house version that showcased a much larger window.  They also revisited adding an activity book but inside of the box, not on the outside.  This version is much easier to obtain than its predecessor while the prototype is a one-of-a-kind.

Eventually they morphed those early designs into the more familiar white box with the children on them.  There were a couple of versions of this and even some foreign variations.  The line continued but morphed into the popular boxes with the plastic crayon holders that collectors like to have (they make good individual crayon color display cases).

It's always exciting as a collector to have obtained a small piece of Crayola history... something you wouldn't think would ever leave the Crayola property and yet did.  I was honored to have owned it.

The Real Tale of the Color "Flesh"

Strange, but I thought I had told this tale in it's completion but going through my blog posts, articles and documentation on my website, apparently I never did completely do so.  So here goes...

The tale of the infamous Crayola color doesn't start with the picture above and the renaming to "Peach".  It begins much earlier.  Back to the origins of Crayola in 1903 when they put together their initial colors and dispersed those out into a number of boxed containers.  At that time they had 38 original colors.  "Flesh Tint" was one of those and that was the original name used for this color.

The color was available in their No 51 box but those crayons didn't have the color names on the wrappers.  They instead published a crayon number and you had to look at the box where they had the names associated with each number.

They did put the color on an original crayon but it was on the Rubens Crayola line.  The color names weren't put lengthwise down the crayon wrapper though.  The design of the Ruben's Crayola called for it to wrap around the crayon instead.  Here's an original Flesh Tint crayon:

You could actually find "Flesh Tint" in the following Crayola boxes:  No 51 (see picture above), the No 47, the No 24 Rubens Crayola and the Number 500 Ruben's Crayola (which is the only version in a larger crayon size).

As time went on, they dropped the No 47, No 51 and Rubens Crayola No 500 from their line up.  This meant that the Rubens Crayola No 24 was the ONLY box you could find "Flesh Tint" in up until 1939.  The Rubens Crayola line was merged into the Crayola line in 1935 but it didn't include "Flesh Tint" when they changed over.  That means that "Flesh Tint" simply wasn't available from 1935 to 1939 in any crayon box.  It might have been possible to purchase them in bulk however.  

In 1939 they introduced the No 52 box.  This was a seminal box of 52 colors that incorporated all of their colors along with their recently acquired Munsell colors.  In doing so, they also added back "Flesh Tint". So, from 1939 to 1944 you could find the color only in this box.  This was the first and only time you could find that color name on a modern serpentine crayon wrapper.

Again, from 1944 to 1949, Crayola had no boxes for sale with "Flesh Tint".

In 1949 they debuted the No 48 box with 48 colors.  At the same time, they tweaked the color line up in their No 24 box to re-introduce "Flesh".  It hadn't been in there since 1935 when it was still Rubens Crayola No 24.  It was during this introduction of the No 48 that they changed the name by dropping the "Tint" part of it to simply "Flesh"

From 1949 until 1956, "Flesh" continued to be included in the No 24 and No 48 boxes exclusively.  But in 1956, a strange thing occurred.  They renamed "Flesh" to "Pink Beige".  No announcements, no fan-fare, no reason ever told.  It was short-lived too because they switched it back to "Flesh" almost immediately afterward.  Even stranger, it was never put into the No 24 even though "Flesh" was a part of that color line up.

After naming it back to "Flesh", it survived under that color name up until 1962 when it was changed to "Peach".

The change to "Peach" was primarily initiated by a wonderful woman named June Handler with whom a gentleman named Marc Dollinger contacted me about.  I corresponded with her back and forth in 2014 when she was 91! She was doing doctoral research back then on "An Attempt to change kindergarten children's attitudes of prejudice toward the negro". She had always been concerned about black/white prejudice, especially in young children. In her abstract, the children who were five would make derogatory remarks about those who were black and she tried to help them understand prejudice and what it does. 

At that time Crayola had "flesh" which was kind of pinkish and some of the white children would taunt some of the black children with "you don't have flesh". She wrote Crayola and explained the situation and what it did to young children. She suggested they change the name. And they did...almost immediately (this took effect in 1962). 

They used her words in their museum where they show the crayons that had changed over the years (Flesh, Prussian Blue, Indian Red). Her son arranged a visit to Crayola later and even the President of Crayola came and thanked her and presented her with a huge box of crayons, all with their new name. Of course, Crayola still uses a generic reasoning of "because of the civil rights movement" but it was really June that lobbied them to do so. 

Sadly, June passed away in November, 2017 at the age of 94.  I felt very honored and fortunate to have met and learned the real story from her.

Crayola's New Travel Packs for 2018

In 2018 Crayola continued their use of licensed characters and put out a set of travel pack containers.  There are currently 5 that I know of.  I don't know if there will be more or this is it.  As with most things Crayola, I couldn't find a single source showing all these.  It took a bit of investigation to come up with all of these.

Each set contains six regular sized Washable Crayola crayons along with activity sheets for coloring, etc.  There are no new colors here but they do have different colors in them although I do not know what colors are in each yet.  If anyone knows one or all, please let me know!  Thanks.

The travel packs consist of:

1. Regular Tip.  This is Crayola's mascot they have used since the late 1980s on various crayon containers.

2. Disney Princess.  This has Mulan, Belle and Jasmine from the Disney animated movies.

3. Paw Patrol.  This is a Nickelodeon cartoon with three characters featured.

4. Marvel Avengers.  Four super heroes are featured on this.

5. Shopkins.  Five of the shopkin characters are featured on this.

The French Crayola Coloring Books Complete with Crayolas

Crayola is a global company.  For those of you that reside and collect in the United States, there is a lot going on internationally that you may not be aware of.  Case in point, over 2016 and 2017 the French publishing company of Editions Grund (began in 1880) partnered with Crayola and began publishing a series of illustrated coloring books that contained six Crayola crayons in a pouch mounted on the front of each coloring book.

The crayons contained in each publication are different (although I did notice that two of them appear to have identical colors).  As I do not have these personally, I am not sure which colors exactly are in each publication but obviously they were chosen based on the illustrations.

Let's take a closer look:

Crayola, Le Cirque (the circus):

Illustrated by French illustrator, Alice Turquois Zaza, this one came out in August, 2016.  Alice is an accomplished illustrator who studied at Lycee Choiseul in Tours, France where she still lives and works.

Here are a couple of sample coloring pages from it:

Crayola, Le Engins (Machines):

Illustrated by Italian illustrator, Laura Desiree Pozzi, this one came out in April, 2016.  Laura is an accomplished illustrator who studied at the University of Balogna and did illustration study at the School of Applied Arts of Castello Sforzesco, Milan.  She is currently an artist in residence at the Maison des Auteurs in Angouleme, Italy.

Crayola, A' La Ferme (On the Farm):

Illustrated by Korean illustrator, Sejung Kim, this one came out in April, 2016.  Sejung is an accomplished illustrator who currently lives in Paris, France.

Crayola, Animaux rigolos (Funny animals):

Illustrated by Brittany illustrator, Corinne LOemerle, this one came out in August, 2016.  Corinne is an accomplished illustrator who still lives and publishes from Brittany.

Here are a sample coloring page from it:

Crayola, A' la mer (At the sea):

Illustrated by French illustrator, Marianne Dupuy-Sauze, this one came out in April, 2016.  Marianne is an accomplished illustrator who still lives and publishes from France.

Crayola, Princes et princesses (Princes & Princesses):

Illustrated by French illustrator, Patricia Lucas (Miss Posca), this one came out in early 2017.  Patricia is an accomplished illustrator who still lives and publishes from Paris, France.

Here are a couple of sample coloring pages from it:

Crayola, La Jungle (The Jungle):

Illustrated by French illustrator, Melanie Grandgirard, this one came out in April 2016.  Melanie is an accomplished illustrator who still lives and publishes from France and work with Good Illustration Agency.

Here are a couple of sample coloring pages from it:

Yes, there are many interesting things going on in other countries if you are interested in collecting everything Crayola.  I have no doubt these will become rarer and rarer as time goes on.

Lot of New Boxes from Crayola thanks to the Retirement and Introduction of Colors

Well, with all the frenzy around 2017's announcement of the retirement of the color Dandelion and then the contest to name the new blue color and then the announcement of the new color Bluetiful and the introduction at the end of 2017 and into 2018, it has been a good time for crayon box collectors (and color collectors too).

First of all, we gained three new boxes for the contest.

Then we gained a whole bunch more boxes to introduce the new blue color.

Of course, the way they generate all of this publicity comes at the cost of losing a color from their catalog which to me seems a bit silly.  Really?  You have to get rid of a color to introduce a new color?  I guess only so many will fit in each container though so clearly they had to remove a color...but why remove it from the entire spectrum of boxes and bulk orders?

It is interesting to note that they chose only 3 boxes to use for the naming but 5 for the introduction and the 3 from Canada and then the Color Collection.  Of course, they skipped the No 48 box which should also have the new color.  Such are the mysteries of crayon collecting.