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The Definitive History of the Colors of Crayola
May 6, 2013 7:17 PM   Subscribe

This is a 40 part feature that steps through Crayola’s color history from 1903 up to the current day 2011.
posted by unliteral (35 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite

 
I vaguely remember stumbling onto this site years and years ago.
posted by Krazor at 7:20 PM on May 6, 2013


Good old Flesh.
posted by Tube at 7:23 PM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think the photo Tube linked is best read bottom-to-top:
Bittersweet
Flesh
Made in U.S.A.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:24 PM on May 6, 2013 [6 favorites]


I buy old boxes of crayons at estate sales. I have a couple boxes in my desk drawer and when I'm having a rotten day, I sniff them. The smell of real Crayons is very calming. The new Crayons smell OK, but not like ones from before the '80s. I do the same thing with an old metal Band-Aid tin that was my grandma's. Still has that awesome antiseptic band-aid smell that you just don't get anymore.
posted by PuppyCat at 7:28 PM on May 6, 2013 [8 favorites]


Also, I used to think the old fluorescent crayons were a gyp, and it took me 20 years to realize it was because we didn't have a black light.
posted by PuppyCat at 7:30 PM on May 6, 2013 [6 favorites]


The list of names individual colors have gone by is interesting. For example: black
Same color as Kitty Cat Black, Leather Jacket, Licorice, Black Hole, Muscle Shell Black (Black), New Sneakers, Starry Night, Storm Cloud Black, Cosmic Black, Shades of Black, Allen Iverson's favorite – black, Illinois Abe Lincoln’s Hat, Cleaner Coal Black, Eerie Black, Carbon Black
Also: Flesh Tint
Only available in bulk as a named wrapper crayon starting 1935; Same color as Flesh, Pink Beige, Peach; Not available 1944 due to WWII
"Pink Beige" was a short-lived color name, and came about well before the Civil Rights movement.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:35 PM on May 6, 2013


I found this somewhat amusing: Misspellings are actually more common than one might think. The crayon wrappers were done by hand using local farmers and other residents for many years.
posted by unliteral at 7:54 PM on May 6, 2013


Flesh controversy aside, I now have the "tri-lingual" collection to thank for a newfound inspiration to call the S.O. osito cafecito.
posted by psoas at 7:56 PM on May 6, 2013


Previous Crayola history on MeFi. There was some Flesh discussion then too, and given the fairly widespread skepticism here about that color name being retired in '62 it's interesting to see that this site seems to concur with the Crayola corporate site about that bit of the history even despite its caution not to believe everything Crayola says.
posted by RogerB at 8:11 PM on May 6, 2013


Francesco Marciuliano, perpetrator of the Medium Large webcomic and a best-selling book of cat poetry, wrote an above-average listicle about the 10 Worst Crayola Crayon Colors. "Indian Red". "Asparagus". "Manatee". "Macaroni and Cheese". And more!
posted by oneswellfoop at 8:14 PM on May 6, 2013


Aargh! The flesh conversation continues. They're lying liars who lie, because there's no way my parents had antique crayon packages just sitting around for me (the first-born child) to use in the early 70s.
posted by BlahLaLa at 8:20 PM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Years ago, a girl in one of my college classes described beige underwear as "flesh" colored. All us black people looked at each other and then at her and started laughing.
posted by shoesietart at 8:22 PM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Here's an infographic take on the evolution of Crayola colors over time.

I wish I had the patience to recreate it using the swatches from the FPP.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 8:33 PM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


The size of the box of Crayons that was purchased before school started each year was, probably, the best indicator of the state of the economy in my family's household, and possibly reflected the economy of the entire country. In the late 50's we were buying the multi level boxes, life was good... I suspect now crayons are purchased one at a time at the local liquor store, like single cigarettes.
posted by HuronBob at 8:49 PM on May 6, 2013 [7 favorites]


Loosies, I once stopped at like 6 bodegas trying to buy a loosie because I couldn't afford a pack, things are scarce nowadays.

I wonder if those big 64 crayon packs are like Tide, fungible in the underground economy. I knew a guy who refused shit like watches and rings but took Tide, wonder if he would take crayons.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:18 PM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


If there is a neighborhood where the crappy liquor stores sell single crayons, I will so totally move there.

Actually, probably it'll just mean there's some new drug thing going on with especially odd paraphernalia requirements and I'm the last one to know. Again. I'm still upset from back when I learned about the gas station roses, which it turns out aren't emergency art supplies for when you need to express spontaneous joy in the fragile beauty of human existence on short notice.
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 9:18 PM on May 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


Ha, yeah the crack stems. In the 70s and 80s places used to sell these horoscopes rolled into a plastic tube, for people who couldn't find a straw and scissors I guess.

By loosies I meant loose newports, they are always newports. I am tempted to go and try to buy one crayon. I know they will sell me one egg or one stick of butter.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:25 PM on May 6, 2013


I work with a group of kindergarteners, none of whom are Caucasian. Every time we draw pictures of people, they fight over the "peach" crayons.

And then I make everyone put their hands in the middle and ask if any of us (including me, mostly Caucasian) have skin that looks anything like peach. And then we break out the tans and the browns.
posted by charmcityblues at 9:33 PM on May 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


Now I need to know what the gas station roses were for
posted by ook at 9:37 PM on May 6, 2013


Oh. Right. The glass tube things. Never mind I'll just be over here nursing my ignorance
posted by ook at 9:38 PM on May 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


They come in a glass tube. The tube is usable as a crack pipe. The rose itself is just there because it would look dumb selling an empty tube. Glass tubes with individually-packaged crayons in 'em would make about as much sense.
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 9:38 PM on May 6, 2013


Or, uh, what you said. :)
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 9:38 PM on May 6, 2013


Is this where I get to post this???

Thanks, Crayola.
posted by mynameisluka at 10:57 PM on May 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


I was a weird kid. I couldn't stand wearing down my crayon tips from the aesthetically perfect cones, and I viewed getting a larger set of crayons as getting to know the names of ALL THE COLORS instead of, you know, having more colors to color with. I think I actually alienated at least one of my friends by fighting with him over "how hard" he was using up my crayons.
posted by dhartung at 12:22 AM on May 7, 2013


Wow, that's a monograph -- impressive.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 12:41 AM on May 7, 2013


oneswellfoop: "10 Worst Crayola Crayon Colors. "Indian Red". "Asparagus". "Manatee". "Macaroni and Cheese". And more!"

Mauvelous.
posted by krinklyfig at 1:15 AM on May 7, 2013


I think we can all agree that Cerulean was the best crayon.

Had a lot of fights in second grade over cerulean crayons.
posted by olinerd at 1:41 AM on May 7, 2013 [8 favorites]


In the 70s and 80s places used to sell these horoscopes rolled into a plastic tube, for people who couldn't find a straw and scissors I guess.

I used to buy those for the horoscopes! I was in middle school and didn't know any better.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:26 AM on May 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh, the flashbacks. When my sister and I were fighting we'd smash each others' favorite colors. (Navy Blue, I hardly knew ye.) And we could rarely afford the fancy package with peach (or whatever they were calling it at the time) so we'd do this streaky mix of pink, yellow, and white whenever we had to color in a Caucasian person.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 5:43 AM on May 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_red_(color)#Etymology

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Variations_of_orange#Bittersweet
posted by elsietheeel at 6:16 AM on May 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


I was well past Crayon-using age when they retired it, but I've never forgiven them for killing blue gray.
posted by usonian at 6:37 AM on May 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I came here to say the same thing as Elsietheeel - Indian Red has nothing to do with 'Red Indians', but 'Red from India'.

Being culturally aware is great. As long as you're actually culturally aware...
posted by sodium lights the horizon at 6:39 AM on May 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


olinerd: "I think we can all agree that Cerulean was the best crayon."

It was certainly the best Ocean Blue album.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:04 AM on May 7, 2013


And about ten percent of men haven't noticed any real change in the Crayola colors over the last century.
posted by mdoar at 12:52 PM on May 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is, as far as I'm concerned, the definitive review of crayons.
posted by Joey Michaels at 2:09 PM on May 7, 2013


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