Color Capital of the World

Growing Up with the Legacy of a Crayon Company

by John Kropf

Size: 6 x 9

Images: 12-page color insert

Winner of the 2023 Local History Publication Award from Bowling Green State University’s Center for Archival Collections

SKU: 978-1-62922-148-9-1-1 Categories: , Tags: ,


Following the Civil War, three entrepreneurial families took their innovative ideas for school chalk from the kitchen stove and transformed them into the American Crayon Company in Sandusky, Ohio. Color Capital of the World tells this story through the eyes of one of the founding family’s descendants, tracing the cycle of build, boom, and bust. Readers will come away feeling a greater appreciation of the human story behind the crayon and the Ohio town that produced more crayons and paints than anywhere in the world.

About the author

John Kropf is the author of Color Capital of the World: Growing Up with the Legacy of a Crayon Company. His previous book, Unknown Sands: Journeys Around the World’s Most Isolated Country that Publisher’s Weekly praised as a fascinating narrative bound to hook adventurers. His writing has appeared in The Baltimore Sun, Florida Sun-Sentinel, The Washington Post, and elsewhere. Kropf was born in Sandusky and raised in Erie County, Ohio. He is an attorney in the Washington, DC. area.

Praise for Color Capital of the World

A book as vibrant as its subject. There’s more here than the compelling history of the American Crayon Company and the brightly-hued world it helped bring forth. Kropf’s moving account of his family’s journey and of his own coming of age in Sandusky is also an exploration of the American dream, the meaning of success, the importance of industry in sustaining a community, and, yes, the disastrous consequences when that industry disappears.
—Bruce Falconer, Senior Editor, The American Scholar 

“This book colored my world with history and hope. Kropf does a deep dive into the development of crayons, their economic impact on the community of Sandusky, Ohio, and the science of how color determines and defines us. Color Capital of the World is a multi-generational story of American business and ingenuity told through the author’s ambitious research and personal genealogy. A delightful and engaging read!”
—Melissa Scholes Young, author of The Hive and Flood 

John Kropf deftly synthesizes regional, industrial, and family history in this book, which chronicles the history of the American Crayon Company in Sandusky, Ohio and his family’s role in creating and growing this remarkable firm that became one of the most successful suppliers of crayons and other art supplies to schools and businesses throughout the world. Through the precise use of portraiture, broader Sandusky history, and his own vivid recollections, Kropf tells the story of what American Crayon meant to his town and his family—and all the costs that result when something great fades away. Memory, meditation, and exposition blend seamlessly in this unusual and valuable work of history. 
—Patrick Kerin, writer


” . . . well-written and, for those of a certain age, suffused with nostalgia.” Washington Post

“Kropf tells three parallel and inseparable stories: The company’s, the city of Sandusky’s and his family’s. It is actually three families who, through ingenuity and partnership, developed the products and found a market for them.” —Akron Beacon Journal

Radio interview podcast on WLEC Radio in Sandusky

“Chronicling the crayon’s importance” Sandusky Register

“Inherently fascinating, impressively informative, enhanced with a section of color plates, exceptionally well written, organized and presented—and certain to be of immense interest to anyone with childhood memories of drawing with color crayons.”—Midwest Book Review

Interview with Lena Crown at The Inner Loop for The Author’s Corner Series

“It is a very moving account of one man’s connection to his family’s legacy. It is also a reminder of a time when there were company towns and people took pride in being part of them.”—The American Spectator

Read “(A Legacy) Waxing and Waning: John Kropf’s Account of American Crayon” at The Helm

Read an excerpt from the book at Miller’s Book Review

“Deftly weaving together the stories of his family, the company, and the city, Kropf creates a vivid portrait of the build-boom-bust of The American Crayon Company, and its impact in Sandusky and on residents—including his family—over the decades to today.” —Inside Our Towns

Read the first chapter of Color Capital of the World, “Pink Piano,” featured in Belt Magazine

Read an excerpt from the book at Cleveland Review of Books 

The Virtual Memories Show, a podcast with Gil Roth

Listen to the Innovators Series: John Kropf – Color Capital podcast on Spotify

Interview with Rust Belt Girl

The Daily Heller: A Saga of the American Crayon

Researching Your Life with John Kropf on The Inner Loop Radio: A Creative Writing Podcast

“. . . at its peak, the Sandusky factory topped every other crayon company in its yearly production rate.” —Midstory

“The book is educational, entertaining, and colorful, much like the crayons that play such an important role in it.”—Flyover Country

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