An Amazing Life Story Behind the Creator of the Scribbles Crayon Box

Research is so interesting.  Consider this crayon box:

You could have this box as part of your crayon collection and not even think twice about the back story.  But in this case, it has a very interesting back story.

Elvy Kalep was responsible for producing this crayon box.  

It was an integral part of the company that she created where she was making dolls with blank faces and providing a box of crayons for children to color the faces on them and wipe them off and do another.  And that might be enough to know for a collector but you’d be missing so much more to the back story.

Elvy Kaep was born in Estonia in 1909 and she witnessed the first shot fired in the Russian Revolution as a young girl after fleeing Estonia from the Russian Kaisers. She managed to escape Russia but it took 8 years behind the Iron Curtain and through the Far East before she ended up in Paris and studied art there. Then she went to Germany and had taken up flying, bobsled competition and race car driving. She wrote a children's book on aviation that had a forward by Amelia Earhart. 

While she was in Germany she was advised to flee as Hitler grew more powerful there. She escaped to the Netherlands with the money from the sale of her plane hidden in a candy box. There she studied blind flying. She made it to New York in 1932 and did her aviation flying until the war. She was close friends with Amelia Earhart and her disappearance impacted Elvy's world. 

Elvy with Amelia Earhart and other pioneering female pilots
During the war she started her business selling dolls with a parachute doll she created. She was forced to close the business in 1946 due to health issues and had no money as a result from covering her health costs. 

She made money for several years selling toy designs to other firms and then in 1950 when she was recovered, she started the Scribbles doll based on an idea from the hundreds of blank doll heads left over from her earlier business. The Scribbles doll lasted only a decade and later she began to work with leather as a medium making mosaics that fascinated the art world. She had shows in the 1960s and 1970s for that particular art and her painting and art were collected around the world. 

She lived to be 90 and died in Lake Worth, FL where she had been living for many decades.

Elvy at 88
All of this great story starting from one crayon box!

Crayola Expands to Embrace Color Inclusiveness with their new "Colors of the World" Release

Crayola is set to launch their newly formulated "Colors of the World" crayon box to address the myriad of human skin colors.

The new box contains 32 specially formulated colors.  24 of those colors were designed to represent 40 unique skin colors.  These will come out in a 24-color box and there will also be a 32-color box offering that includes and additional 4 colors to represent hair colors and another 4 to represent eye colors.

“With the world growing more diverse than ever before, Crayola hopes our new Colors of the World crayons will increase representation and foster a greater sense of belonging and acceptance,” says Rich Wuerthele, the new CEO of Crayola who was hired on in January to lead the company. “We want the new Colors of the World crayons to advance inclusion within creativity and impact how kids express themselves.”

Indeed, Crayola has taken this evolution to address color equality very seriously.  Crayola partnered with Victor Casale. Victory was the former chief chemist and managing director of Research & Development (R&D) for MAC cosmetics, co-founder and chief innovation officer of Cover FX, and currently CEO of MOB Beauty.  He has over 30 years of experience creating make-up foundation colors for global skin tones.

“Growing up, I remember mixing the pink and dark brown crayons to try and make my shade, so I was thrilled when Crayola asked for my help to create the Colors of the World Crayons," said Casale, “Finding someone’s right shade has been a goal of mine for my whole career. Now, people can identify themselves in a box of 24 crayons. This is going to change things.”

This isn't the first time someone has influenced changing things at Crayola regarding the perception of skin color and their crayon colors.  I wrote about the history of the color "Flesh" and how back in 1962 June Handler influenced the change in the name of the color after her studies and observations of children's behaviors when coloring people using their crayons.  You can read about it here:  History of Flesh

Of course, the real misunderstanding is that Crayola simply pulled "Flesh" from the art world where it had been used long before wax crayons were available and continues to be used in other industries to this day.  Why?  Because it is a viable color.  Flesh represents not skin pigment (melanin) but that part in which the melanin is absent.  Look at the palms of anyone on the planet...that is the legitimate flesh color.  Look at a person with vitiligo (a condition that causes patches of skin to lose their melanin) and that is the color Flesh.  But as with so many things, the general public confuses that legitimate definition with skin tone and it became an "issue" around differences between humans of various origins because there weren't enough color options to cover the human range at the time.

Since that time, Crayola has continually evolved and moved forward the effort at equality in colors to use for coloring humans.  


Each of these boxes represent a look back at their continued evolution toward equality.  These were only partially successful because they were specifically designed to represent the spectrum of skin colors.  Instead, they were existing colors bundled together to help achieve that goal.  The results were still limiting.  It looks like Crayola has achieved what June Handler sparked way back in 1962 with their new launch.

The new launch will be in July 2020 (unless COVID-19 changed that goal) and it will be through Walmart exclusively.  Crayola has been nurturing specific crayon partnering with companies such as Walmart and Target for decades now.

And for collectors, this adds another 32 color names and true colors to their color history (which I will document in my ongoing color history elsewhere in my website).  In the meantime, enjoy the latest offering from Crayola.

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:  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 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.