Local Obituaries

Chemist who came up with washable crayons dies in Wichita

Colin Snedeker, who developed washable Crayola crayons, died in Wichita at age 80.
Colin Snedeker, who developed washable Crayola crayons, died in Wichita at age 80. Courtesy photo

Mothers everywhere celebrate the inventions of Colin Snedeker.

They may not know his name, but they know his inventions, particularly the washable crayon that he developed while working for Binney & Smith, then the parent company of Crayola.

“He had that kind of mind that could just figure things out,” said his sister Ann Strickland.

Mr. Snedeker, who worked as a chemist at Binney & Smith, Kiwi shoe polish and DuPont, died Saturday in Wichita. He was 80. There will be no service held.

He was born on Jan. 5, 1936, in Newcastle-on-Tyne, England.

“Our dad’s dad died in a fire, and an English couple adopted our dad when he was about 13,” Strickland said.

Their early childhood was spent in England. In 1948, their father discovered some letters from his birth family in Pennsylvania.

The Pennsylvania family invited the English Snedekers back to the States. And when the family returned, that’s when they discovered how brilliant her brother was, Strickland said.

“He had to take a test to enter school, and they found out he could go right into high school,” she said. “He was 13 at the time and was able to graduate by the time he was 15.

“He studied metallurgy, and one of his first jobs was working with Kiwi (shoe polish).”

While at Kiwi, he worked to develop a white shoe polish that didn’t stain clothes.

He later went to work for Binney & Smith, where he came up with an idea embraced by mothers.

“He said he had run out of ideas as to what to make next,” Strickland said. “He went into the company’s complaint department, where they had all kinds of mail from people complaining about what was wrong.

“One of the women said they received the most mail from mothers wanting to know how to wash out crayons from fabrics, car seats and walls. He got to thinking, and that’s when he came up with washable crayons.”

In 1990, Mr. Snedeker was awarded a patent for a washable solid marking composition. He also received patents in the 1990s for a color-changing marking composition system and for phosphorescent and fluorescent marking composition.

In 2004, Mr. Snedeker moved to Wichita from Pennsylvania.

“He didn’t have any children; he was divorced,” Ann Strickland said. “He felt like at this stage in his life, he wanted to be around family.

“I’m just so proud of him. He was very humble and never really told anybody or said ‘I did this or that.’ He was quiet and just liked to be around his family.”

Mr. Snedeker is survived by Ann and Jerry Strickland of Wichita and many nephews and nieces.

A memorial in his name has been established with the Harry Hynes Memorial Hospice, 313 S. Market, Wichita, KS 67202.

Beccy Tanner: 316-268-6336, @beccytanner