Way back in 1885, cousins Edwin Binney and C. Harold Smith started a business manufacturing shades of gray – carbon black, printing ink and slate pencils.
Eight years later, tired of the monochromatic palette of their company, the creative cousins melted some hunks of wax and burst into the business of color with their first box of crayons under the Crayola brand – eight colors for five cents.
Through the years, the boxes increased in multiples of eights: 16, 24, 48, 64, 96, 120. Today, there’s even a container of 150 and 152.
The inventors of Crayola Crayons were long deceased in 1958 when I turned 1, but their virtual rainbow of shades and hues was going strong. That was the year the much-coveted box of 64 – complete with built-in color sharpener – hit the market.
In kindergarten, we each had a box of eight oversized Crayons that were flat on one side to keep them from rolling on our desks.
In first grade, most of us arrived with Crayola’s box of 24 tucked snuggly in our book satchels. But one person came with a tin container of 150 colors.
We were green with envy until we realized her colors were not Crayola Crayons at all, but cheap imitations.
For a few days we snubbed this classmate with the canned sticks of wax, until we determined one’s colors shouldn’t be a decisive factor in friendship.
At some point in life, I finally got the box of 64. And I realized, my box of 24 had all the shades I needed and was much easier to carry.
In 1990, the folks in the boardroom at Binney & Smith decided to retire eight of the tried-and-true colors to make room for eight “new, more vivid colors.” Included in these shoved-aside eight was a trio of my favorites – blue gray, violet blue and green blue.
Many of us longtime loyalists saw red, though none of us got violet. The younger generation of colorers was over the moon, in the pink, overjoyed at the change.
In 1993, the company hosted a contest, asking Crayola fans to choose fancy names for more additions.
I rolled my eyes and hugged my own box of 64 tightly as I sang the blues.
Then back in 2017, Crayola once again dared to mess with a good thing – they retired the iconic dandelion, after 27 years of steadfast service.
In its place, a member of the family blue whose name was chosen by contest. The winning name? Bluetiful. Not even a bonafide word.
Oh, that the leadership at Crayola, LLC would learn – there’s room in the color box for all.
And if you must, just make a bigger box.