Things That Make Me Happy: Box of Crayons at the MFA, Boston

Box of Crayons from the Robbins Family. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. 99.664.114.

There’s a lot to love about this sweet handmade box chock a block full of stubby crayons once owned by the Robbins family of Lexington, Massachusetts. The paper wrapping the outside of the thin paperboard is block-printed with tiny black diamonds and jubilant blue dots. Within, the sticks and chocolate-chip like pieces range in color from brilliant blues and rich terracottas to pale pinks and creepy greens. On the inside of the lid, you can see the artist thinking, scratching on the blank paper with a selected crayon, testing the color.

Advertisements from the c. 1810 are too long to include in this post – I’ve included a slightly earlier one. This merchant offers a few boxes of crayons, but his counterparts 17 years later offer 100-200 boxes of crayons in different sizes, as well as “Crayon rubbers, Kitcats and Long Cloths for Portrait Painters — Ivory Sheets for Miniatures.” (Boston Commercial Gazette, 1/7/1805)

MFA Boston, 99.664.114.


Columbian Centinel, May 11, 1793.

About Becky Fifield

Becky Fifield is a cultural heritage professional with 25 years experience in institutions large and small. She is currently Head of Collection Management for the Special Collections of the New York Public Library. An advocate for preventive conservation, Ms. Fifield is a Professional Associate of the American Institute for Conservation, Chair of the AIC Collection Care Network, and former Chair of Alliance for Response NYC. She is also a scholar of 18th century female unfree labor and dress. There's a bit of pun in the title The Still Room, delineating a quiet space brimming with the ingredients of memory, where consideration, analysis, and wordcraft can take place. Ms. Fifield’s interests include museum practice, dress history, historic preservation, transit, social and women’s history, food, current events, geneaology, roadtrips, and considerations on general sense of place. Becky and her husband, Dr. V, live in the Hudson Valley.