Besides color pigment, what's the other main ingredient used to make crayons?

And the answer: paraffin wax.

Photo credit: Brain Woodcock via Country Living

According to Crayola, the paraffin wax is melted and mixed together with color pigments. "The hot wax mixture is poured into molding machines. In about four to seven minutes, the crayons cool and become solid." Crayola makes 14 million crayons everyday, and around 3 billion each year.

Crayola crayons were invented in 1903 by cousins Edwin Binney and C. Harold Smith, founders of the Binney & Smith Co. of Easton, Pennsylvania. By mixing the paraffin wax with nontoxic pigments, the co-founders were able to create a safe and easy drawing utensil for young children. In fact, the first box design promotes its use for "young artists".

The name "Crayola" was invented by the wife of the company's founder. The word derives from the French word "craie," meaning chalk, and "oleaginous," or "oily." In other words, what better way to describe crayons than "oily chalk?"  

Before their use as art supplies for children, crayons were primarily used in industrial settings. Creators Binney and Smith themselves used charcoal and lamp black crayons in their factory until the pair began to experiment with other colors. When the pair took over the business from Edwin Binney's father, they began to experiment in color. Binney and Smith and created a red pigment for barn paints and a carbon black that made rubber tires stronger, while then moving on to make pencils and dustless chalk for school blackboards. Of course, their natural next step would be to combine each element to create something brand new.

Thus, the crayon was born. The pair capitalized on schools' need for a safe coloring agent, and created the first crayons. Coming in an astounding eight colors and costing just a nickel, the first batches of crayon represented a turning point in the world of children's art. Today, the Crayola name carries over 400 colors, and comes in many shapes and sizes.

Watch the crayon-making process in the video below.


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