Crayola Crayons: A Unit Study

Crayola Crayons: A Unit Study
Crayola Crayons: A Unit Study

On October 23, 1903, Edwin Binney and C. Harold Smith sold their first crayons.  The box of eight red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet, brown, and black sticks sold for 5¢.  Edwin Binney’s wife Alice named the brand Crayola from craie, French for “chalk,” and ola for “oleaginous,” meaning oily.

The History of Crayola

The Binney & Smith company originally specialized in pigments.  They were large producers of carbon black for automobile tires, which not only colored the tires but also strengthened them significantly.  They also manufactured the classic red pigment used for barn siding.  They moved into the school products business with their invention of dustless chalk.  The chalk used in schools at that time created a large mess of dust which teachers abhorred.  Seeing a market, Binney & Smith stepped in and created dustless chalk which was nontoxic and well loved.

Crayola Crayons: A Unit Study
Edwin Binney and C. Harold Smith

However, Binney & Smith’s largest contribution to the educational world was the Crayola Crayon, introduced in 1903.  The crayons used at that time were expensive, as the only ones that could be obtained that were both nontoxic and of reasonable quality had to be imported from Europe.  With Binney & Smith’s Crayola, nontoxic quality crayons could be provided at low prices.

After the original box of eight, more colors were added.  In 1949, the “stadium-seating” box of 48 appeared on the market.  However, the most remembered is the well-loved Crayola 64-pack of crayons of the 1950s with the built-in crayon sharpener.  These days there are 120 colors made.

In 1984 Binney & Smith became a subsidiary of Hallmark Cards, Inc., and in 2007 Binney & Smith became Crayola, LLC.

How is a Crayola Crayon Made?

Crayola Crayons: A Unit Study

What exactly are the crayons made out of?  The main ingredient is paraffin wax.  The wax is heated and mixed with pigment and poured into a mold.  Upon hardening, it is removed from the mold and labeled, whereupon it is a finished crayon.  No one knows exactly what makes up the other ingredients — they’ve been kept secret since the beginning.

Crayons have been around for over a century now, and are still loved by both adults and children.

Interesting Crayola Crayon Facts

  • Crayola crayons usually come in packages containing multiples of eight: 8-, 16-, 24-, 48-, 64-, 96-, and 120-packs.
  • The world’s largest crayon was manufactured in 2003 celebrating the 100th birthday of Crayola.  The blue crayon is 15 feet long, 1500 pounds in weight, and made entirely of leftover scraps from used crayons.
  • 99% of Americans recognize the Crayola brand.

Further Investigation

Crayola Colors Children’s Memories in 64 Shades and More
Article from the Pennsylvania Center for the Book that details Crayola’s history.

Edward Binney and Harold Smith
More about the inventors from MIT’s Inventor of the Week archive.


How People Make Things: Crayons
A Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood video at PBS Kids.

Colors Tints and Shades
Activity sample from Learn and Do Unit Studies that explores colors.

Crayola Crayons: A Unit Study

Crayola 64-Count Crayon Box
A childhood favorite!

Harold and the Purple Crayon

Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson
Cannot count how many times I have read this book.  At one point I could have recited the lines from memory.  Who knew you could do so much with a crayon?

Unit Studies & Lesson Plans

Crayon Etching
Great lesson plan that uses layers and subtraction to create incredible works of art!

Storytelling Resist
Lesson plan from the Akron Art Museum that uses crayons and watercolors to tell a story.

Crayon Rock Cycle
Rather ingenious lesson plan where a crayon is used to demonstrate the different types of rocks.

Printables & Notebooking Pages

Crayon Bookmark Coloring Page
Color this crayon and use it as a bookmark.

Crayon Colors
Printable from JumpStart that can be used to help young ones learn colors.

Printable Wall Crayons
From A to Z Teacher Stuff.

Crayola Crayons Notebooking Pages
Simple pages for copywork, narrations, or wrapping up.