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Greenwich Daily Voice serves Greenwich, CT

Did You Know? Crayons Came From Greenwich

GREENWICH, Conn. — As many children sit down to draw and color pumpkins, ghosts and goblins this Halloween season, did you know that Greenwich has an important connection with a much-loved and time-honored tool of youthful creativity – the Crayola crayon?

Old Greenwich resident Edwin Binney co-invented the Crayola crayon in 1903 with his cousin and business partner, C. Harold Smith. Their company, Binney & Smith, first sold a box of eight crayons for a nickel.

Binney’s wife, Alice Stead Binney, had been an English teacher in New York City. Some accounts suggest that Alice Binney’s desire for students to have a palette of safe colored crayons may have inspired her husband’s interest in the product he helped originate.

Alice Binney is credited with coining the name “Crayola.” The name is a combination of the French word “craie,” meaning chalk, and “ola,” short for oleaginous — meaning oily. This is a reflection of the fact that the crayon wax was derived from petroleum.

The Crayola crayon, however, was not the only notable contribution of Binney & Smith to the nation’s schoolrooms. Just a year earlier, the company created and sold the first dustless school chalk — a product that won a gold medal at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904.

Edwin and Alice Binney built a summer retreat along the coast of Old Greenwich, then known as Sound Beach, in 1889. But they soon embarked on the construction of the magnificent Rocklyn estate to meet their needs for a year-round home. They had four children: Dorothy, Helen, Mary and Edwin Jr.

Alice Binney played an important role in recognizing and preserving the history of her beloved community as a founding member of the Historical Society of the Town of Greenwich. She would serve as president of that organization, now known as the Greenwich Historical Society, for many years.

Edwin and Alice’s daughter, Helen Binney Kitchel, had a long and distinguished career serving Greenwich in civic and political life. She was a member of the Representative Town Meeting, the Chamber of Commerce, the Greenwich Reorganization Committee and the Greenwich League of Women Voters.

Like her mother, she took great interest in area history and was a member of the Historical Society. Her work with the Garden Club of Old Greenwich fueled her interest in conservation and preservation of the aesthetic beauty of scenic roadways in Connecticut.

The archives at the Greenwich Historical Society holds the Helen Binney Kitchel Papers, which contain primary source material documenting her work in state and local government as well as personal and family history. The archives are open to the public on Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The “Did You Know?” column is written by Christopher Shields, the archivist at the Greenwich Historical Society, 39 Strickland Road, Cos Cob. Visit for more information about the Greenwich Historical Society, its exhibitions and programs.

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