Some things change often, like the weather; other things seem permanent but really aren’t, like sports franchise locations. When moving into the realm of science, though, it’s understandable to project an extra sense of stability, at least until you realize that Pluto can have planet status pulled and the Brontosaurus can be written out of history.
Some things, however, are fairly basic. Color would seem to be one of them. Someone can re-evaluate a celestial body based on its size, but color is color.
Or so the Crayola-uninitiated would have you believe.
Crayola, the ubiquitous children’s art company, got its start by making their trademark crayons. But the color names haven’t been constant.
Their most famous switch happened in 1962, when “Flesh” was changed to “Peach”. Far before anyone was using the term “PC” as a pejorative, people were still capable of voicing concerns, and Crayola heard the complaints of people with non-peach-colored skin as the civil rights advocates brought their case before the public. Crayola decided to change the name.
This wasn’t the only time they’ve changed something, though. Four years prior, in 1958, “Prussian Blue” was switched to “Midnight Blue”. Why? Well, it’s uncertain, at least according to the American Chemical Society:
The Prussian blue crayon name lasted until 1958, when it was changed to midnight blue. The reason for the change is unclear: One source says it was made because no one knew what Prussia was anymore; another reports that the move was spurred by political correctness during the Cold War.
Crayola later changed “Indian Red” to “Chestnut” in 1999. In contrast to many assumptions, “Indian Red” was referring to a particular shade of red common to dyes from India; the believed association to racism triggered the change, however, as the company sought to minimize blowback from politically active but geographically inept complaints.
It’s not just the names that have been changed, though; so have spots in the coveted 64 count box. In 1990, eight colors were retired, and eight new ones cycled into production. In 2003, another four crayons were retired and four new ones produced. One more color, Dandelion, was replaced in 2017.
Color is about as permanent as just about anything else in science. It’s completely permanent… until it isn’t.
Question of the night: what’s your favorite color?