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BINNEY & SMITH INC. RECORDS, 1897-1998
#624

(24 cubic feet: 42 DB; 8 ShB; 14 F/O; 1 O/S Fldr)

by Alison L. Oswald, May 1998; revised 2000, 2003, 2011

History

In 1864, Joseph W. Binney (1836-1898), began a small chemical works in Peekskill, New York. He ground and packaged hardwood charcoal and manufactured small quantities of lamp black from whale oil. In 1880, he opened a New York City office taking on his nephew, C. Harold Smith (1860-1931) as a salesman. Later, Joseph Binney's son, Edwin Binney (1866-1934), joined the business. The organization was known as the Peekskill Chemical Co. Joseph W. Binney retired and in May 1885, Edwin Binney and C. Harold Smith formed a partnership, Binney & Smith. Their early products included red oxide pigment used in barn paint and carbon for black tires. In 1900, the company began producing slate school pencils in its Easton, Pennsylvania mill. With the assistance of John Ketchum, the owner of a talc mine in North Carolina, Binney began combining old slate waste with cement and the talc supplied by Ketchum to produce slate pencils. Two years later, Binney & Smith introduced their white dustless blackboard chalk, "Au-Du-Septic" and in 1903, the company produced a box of eight crayons, which sold for a nickel. The word "Crayola" coined by Edwin Binney's wife, Alice, comes from "craie" the French word for chalk, and "ola," from oleaginous, meaning oily or pertaining to oil. Binney & Smith's best known product is Crayola crayons. However, its product line now includes: tempera, washable, and fabric paints, Liquitex acrylic paints, Magic Marker, chalk, clay, and Jazzy fashion and craft accessories. Binney & Smith acquired Silly Putty in 1977 and in 1984, became a subsidiary of Hallmark Cards, Inc. Products are still manufactured in Easton, Pennsylvania (world headquarters), as well as Mexico, and Indonesia and are available in twelve languages. In 2007, the company changed its name to Crayola LLC.

Scope & Content

The Binney & Smith Inc. Records, document twentieth century advertising, commercial packaging, commercial imagery, and retail merchandising. They are a major source for research on American consumer culture. This collection is divided into thirteen (13) series: Series 1: Historical Background, 1956-1990s; Series 2: Executive Records, 1897-1995; Series 3: Financial, Sales and Marketing Records, 1902-1990; Series 4: Employee and Personnel Records, 1917-1993; Series 5: Newsletters and Publications, 1948-1995; Series 6: Research and Development Records, 1905-1987; Series 7: Advertising and Promotional Records, 1918-1998; Series 8: Catalogs, 1916-1995; Series 9: Price Lists, 1916-1995; Series 10: Product Information, 1918-1995; Series 11: Competitors, 1918-1992; Series 12: Photographs and Scrapbooks, c. 1900s-1997; and Series 13: Audio-Visual Materials, c. 1980-1998.

Series 1: Historical Background, 1956-1994, contains documentation on the corporate history of Binney & Smith, and general background on how crayons are made. The Story of the Rainbow, (editions 1947, 1956, and 1961), provide corporate historical highlights and a history of the company. See also Series 5: Newsletters and Publications, 1948-1995 for information about the company.

Series 2: Executive Records, 1897-1995, consists of annual and corporate reports, by-laws, minutes, correspondence, annual reports, stockholder materials and the attempted merger of Binney & Smith by Cheeseborough-Ponds in the early 1970s and the Kellogg Co., ca. 1979.

Series 3: Financial, Sales, and Marketing Records, 1902-1990, consists primarily of sales information and statistics for crayons and other products. The correspondence, 1913-1931, includes documentation on monthly sales with explanations and analysis. Binney & Smith created comparative data on a yearly basis for products and salesmen. The salesmen data, 1919-1932, contains the amount of sales, expenses, percentages, time periods, and increases and decreases in business. Specific salesmen are cited in reports. All of the sales information should be consulted as there is considerable overlap.

Series 4: Employee/Personnel Records, 1917-1993, contains payroll rate books, employee reports and miscellaneous documentation. The payroll rate books include the names of employees and the rate at which they were paid per hour. In some instances it is noted if the employee left the company.

Series 5: Newsletters and Publications, 1948-1995, include newsletters and other publications produced by Binney & Smith, Inc. Arranged alphabetically, this series contains publications intended for both internal distribution such as the Rainbow Insider and external distribution such as the Art Educationist and Drawing Teacher. This series provides valuable information on the history of the company, how it operates, the types of products produced, and the employees. The Art Educationist, formerly known as the Drawing Teacher, which began publication in 1926, was a publication for art teachers that promoted the value of art in schools. It contains editorials, comments from teachers, and suggested art activities.

Series 6: Research and Development Records, 1905-1987, includes a wide variety of materials documenting the Research and Development Department. The bulk of the materials include crayon formulas. Other formulas for products such as chalk exist.

Series 7: Advertising and Marketing Records, 1918-1998, contains several subseries with the bulk of the material being documentation on labeling and packaging. The advertising accounts are arranged chronologically and then within each year, alphabetically by the name of the journal or magazine in which Binney & Smith advertised. The cards provide the name, address, date of contract, date of expiration, space allotted, rate, subject of the ad, and remarks if applicable. Information on distribution and "specials" is available for some years. The promotional materials consist of licensing information, press kits, and printed literature, particularly Promotional Plans which describe the details of each promotion offered for each product along with suggestions for merchandising activities.

Series 8: Catalogs, 1916-1995, and Series 9: Price Lists, 1916-1995, are arranged alphabetically by division within Binney & Smith, Inc. Both series provide documentation on the types of products available to the consumer and costs associated with each product.

Series 10: Product Information, 1918-1995,consists of printed literature on a variety of products produced by Binney & Smith, Inc. The series is arranged alphabetically. The product inventories, 1920-1925, are arranged by product number in sequential order. There are three distinct inventories--those arranged by product number (#1-#7026); those arranged alpha-numerically (#04-#04Y); and those arranged alphabetically.

Series 11: Competitors, 1918-1992, contains published catalogs and advertising of crayon competitors. There is a scrapbook of competitors advertising contains correspondence, product information, advertisements, and newspaper clippings for the American Crayon Co., Art Crayon Co., Botts Mfg., Eberhard Faber Co., Ferst Brothers, Joseph Dixon Crucible Co., Milton-Bradley Co., and National Crayon Co.

Series 12: Photographs and Scrapbooks, c. 1900s-1997, includes several subseries documenting buildings and office spaces, displays, employees and machinery, products, portraits, photo albums, and oversized. The oversized photographs contain some panoramic shots of Binney & Smith company "annual outings." The photograph albums consist of several albums including the Middletown Township Workshop, 1952, an art workshop sponsored by Binney & Smith, Inc. Three albums contain photographs of various construction and expansion projects from the 1960s to 1975. Of note is the photo album containing photographs and newspaper clippings from the 1959 California Pacific Crayon Company fire. Also, there are Binney & Smith company albums, 1949-1976, that document a variety of activities within the company. Each album was photographed by W. H. Milliken, Jr., and specified the location, date, and number of photographs in the album. The albums cover topics such as art shows, trade shows, suppers, dinner parties, office shots, employee anniversaries, and retirement parties. The scrapbooks span the years 1962-1975, and contain both newspaper clippings and some black and white photographs documenting various company activities and its employees.

Series 13: Audio-Visual Materials, c. 1980s-1998, contain two 1/2" VHS tapes documenting the 40th anniversary of the Crayola 64 box and Silly Putty.

Related Materials

Artifacts were donated to the National Museum of American History, Division of Cultural History on November 18, 1997 and March 15, 1998. The artifacts consist of more than 150 objects, including 79 boxes of Crayola crayons from the 1900s to 1998; 24 boxes of chalk from the 1890s to 1998, 18 art kits; 10 sets of EDU-CARDS from the 1960s and 1970s; and 10 packages of Silly Putty from the 1950s to the 1990s.

Provenance

This collection was donated to the National Museum of American History, Archives Center on November 18, 1997, by Binney & Smith through Patrick Morris. Additional materials were donated in March 1998, by Binney & Smith through Tracey Muldoon Moran and in February 2000 through Stacy Gabrielle.

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E-mail: archivescenter@si.edu
Revised: June 7, 2011