Thursday, December 19, 2019

Coloring Book History

Last month the Strong National Museum of Play announced additional toys to be inducted into its National Toy Hall of Fame. To be chosen by the panel of historians educators and museum curators, a toy must have been popular for many years and must “fosters learning, creativity, or discovery through play.” One of the toys added this year is the coloring book.

The earliest coloring books, The Little Folks' Painting Book, was published by the McLoughlin Brothers in the 1880s. They continued to produce coloring books until a merger with Milton Bradley in the 1920s. These books featured line drawings meant to be painted.  Once Crayola began marketing wax crayons, the books became easier (less messy) to use and hence more popular.  Recently, coloring books aimed at adults are being marketed as a stress-relieving activity.

The Benton County Historical Museum has several coloring books in its collection.

The “Color Lessons for Little Folks” dates from 1935 and features simple designs for children to color.
Milt Youngren's “Color Lessons for Little Folks”, 1935
Some coloring books feature pictures and captions with an educational focus, such as types of wildlife or historical events.  This coloring book, from the 1950s, features Britain's royal family, with drawings of Elizabeth before she became queen and her eldest two children.
The Royal Family Coloring Book, circa 1950
If your holiday shopping list includes gifts for children, you might want to check out the entire list of toys in the hall of fame.  To do so, go to

By Martha Fraundorf, Volunteer for Benton County Historical Society, Philomath, Oregon

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