By Michelle H.

As we recognize National Coloring Book Day on August 2, and National Coloring Day not far behind (September 14), let’s take a look at coloring your world!

Most of us remember coloring in coloring books as children. Hours spent with crayons in hand, dutifully staying within the lines. But did you know that coloring in books started much earlier, in the 1600s? Some of the earliest coloring books were used by wealthy adults to practice their painting skills.

History of Coloring

Innovations in the printing industry resulted in faster, easier printing, making color and “painting books” more accessible and affordable for many families. One of the first coloring books for children was the Little Folks Painting Book, published in 1897.

Then, in 1903, Binney & Smith created waxed-based crayons, with a box of eight crayons selling for a whopping five cents. By the 1930s, the manufacture of crayons and pencils was a twenty-million-dollar industry. The 1930s and 1940s were the golden age for coloring.

By the 1960s, the world was changing. Adult coloring books were both unique and subversive. The JFK Coloring Book spent 14 weeks at the top of the New York Times bestseller list in 1962. The year before, three admen created the Executive Coloring Book, a snarky take on the Mad Men-era executive set.

According to The Daily Illini article in 1962 quoted by the New Republic, “although ‘the hottest item in publishing these days’ is the coloring book for adults, they ‘aren’t expected to color it, however; just to look and laugh.’”

Modern Coloring

The first commercially successful adult coloring books were published in 2012 and 2013, with the adult coloring book market spiking in 2015, hitting $12 million in sales. Coloring books sales climbed again during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, not only as screen-free alternatives for children, but also for their quarantined parents. The publication AdAge named coloring as “one of the key creative trends to emerge from the pandemic.” 

Why do people color? For some, it’s a throwback to childhood—easy, carefree, inexpensive, and nostalgic. For others, it’s a practice in mindfulness, escaping life’s anxieties and discord into a more relaxing place. Coloring as a group can be a quiet and relaxing way to be social.

 Feeling inspired? Here are some cool coloring sites from the American Library Association and the University of Louisville Health Care System:

Michelle H.

Michelle H.

With 8 locations throughout Vanderburgh County, EVPL is ready to discover, explore, and connect WITH you! We encourage you to uncover new things, revisit old favorites, and to engage with us along the way.

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