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What was Crayola originally called?

What was Crayola originally called?

Crayola, the popular brand of crayons, markers, colored pencils, and other art supplies, has become an iconic name in children’s creative play. However, Crayola was not the original name of the company that produced these classic art tools. The original name was quite different and linked to the history of the company’s founding. Exploring the original name provides interesting insight into the early stages of the company and how it evolved into the Crayola brand we know today.

The Origins of Binney & Smith

Crayola traces its roots back to 1885, when cousins Edwin Binney and Harold Smith established the Peekskill Chemical Works in Peekskill, New York. Binney had a background in developing carbon black, while Smith had experience in processing and distributing pigments. Together, they focused their new company on producing lampblack, a fine carbon powder used in inks, pigments, and other products. At the time, lampblack was primarily imported from Europe. Binney & Smith saw an opportunity to create a domestic source of lampblack to supply the growing U.S. printing ink, paint, and pigment markets.

Initially, Binney & Smith produced lampblack at their factory in Peekskill. They soon expanded into developing and producing their own pigment products, including red oxide pigments used in barn paint. The company gained a reputation for making high-quality pigments and became a leading producer of oxides, carbon black, and other colorants used in inks, paints, and related products. Their products were known under the Binney & Smith brand name during the company’s early history.

The Origins of Crayola Crayons

In 1900, Binney & Smith acquired the Munsell Color Company in Easton, Pennsylvania. This provided the company with new technology and capabilities around producing colored chalks. A few years later, Binney & Smith developed a new chalk recipe that created brighter, smoother colors that were less messy than conventional chalk. These colored sticks were originally marketed under the name Peek Prentice Crayons, referencing the Peekskill location where Binney & Smith first started and the Prentice family who helped develop the new chalk recipe.

The Peek Prentice Crayons were well-received in schools and quickly became popular among young students. Building on this success, Binney & Smith looked to improve their crayon products further. They worked on enhancements to create crayons that had an even smoother feel and superior coloring ability. By 1902, they had developed the first dustless colored chalks, which they sold under the name Crayola.

The Success and Growth of Crayola

The Crayola brand crayons were a big hit. Teachers appreciated their mess-free qualities and longer lasting points compared to conventional colored chalk. Students enjoyed their ability to produce brighter, bolder colors in a wide selection of hues. Crayola crayons quickly became the new standard for coloring in classrooms and homes across the country.

Recognizing the strong consumer appetite for their crayons, Binney & Smith invested heavily in branding, promotion, and innovation around the Crayola name. They ran colorful advertisements portraying children happily using Crayola crayons for creative activities. The company regularly introduced new specialty crayon sets with larger color ranges, specialty crayon shapes, and built-in sharpeners. They also expanded the Crayola product line to include washable markers, modeling compounds, paints, and other art tools.

By 1920, Binney & Smith decided to emphasize their Crayola brand for all of their color products over their original corporate name. The Crayola name was colorful, catchy, and appealed to children. Leaning into this brand helped Binney & Smith further stand out in a competitive marketplace. While Binney & Smith remained the official corporate name, Crayola became the flagship product line that defined the company.

Evolution of the Binney & Smith Name

For much of the 20th century, Binney & Smith continued to manufacture Crayola products as well as industrial pigments, colorants, and other chemical products. The Binney & Smith corporate brand remained in use for personnel, legal, and promotional purposes even as Crayola grew into an iconic name.

However, by the late 1990s, Binney & Smith divested their industrial businesses to focus exclusively on consumer arts and crafts products. With only the Crayola brand remaining, the distinctive corporate name of Binney & Smith no longer represented the company’s business.

In 2007, Binney & Smith officially changed its name to Crayola LLC. This aligned the company’s legal identity with its dominant brand name. While losing the Binney & Smith name signified leaving behind a piece of company history, the new Crayola LLC name was a better reflection of the brand that had made the company famous. It also presented a unifying identity as Crayola expanded into new overseas markets.

Today, Crayola LLC continues to manufacture an enormous range of Crayola-branded art, craft, and school supplies. The Crayola name adorns over 3,000 distinct products sold across 80 countries. While the original Binney & Smith identity is now a historical footnote, it played an important role in fostering the company that became known to millions around the world as Crayola.


Crayola crayons, markers, and art supplies have become ingrained in childhood and school memories for generations. While Crayola is now the iconic name associated with coloring and creative play, it evolved from more utilitarian origins. Crayola traces its roots back to Binney & Smith, a late 19th century pigment and chemical manufacturer that developed dustless colored chalks bearing the Crayola name in the early 1900s. As Crayola crayons surged in popularity, Binney & Smith increasingly branded itself around its successful art supply line until eventually adopting the Crayola identity. The Crayola name we recognize today is built upon the foundation established by Binney & Smith, an important part of the company’s history.

Timeline of Key Events

Year Event
1885 Binney & Smith founded as a carbon black and pigment manufacturer
1900 Binney & Smith acquires the Munsell Color Company
1903 First dustless colored chalks sold as Peek Prentice Crayons
1904 Improved chalks branded as Crayola
1920s Company focuses branding on Crayola for color products
2007 Binney & Smith changes name to Crayola LLC

The Evolution of Key Crayola Products

Product Year Introduced Details
Boxed crayons 1903 First boxed set branded as Peek Prentice Crayons with 8 colors
Crayola crayons 1904 Improved chalk recipe branded as Crayola with 8 basic colors
Crayola No. 52 1958 Large 64-color crayon set
Marker products 1978 Broad Crayola washable marker line introduction
Colored pencils 1990 Launch of Crayola-branded colored pencils