“Coloring with crayons is a near-universal experience. Just about everyone can remember opening that first box of crayons and getting that crayon-high from that waxy smell.”
With his new book, COLOR CAPITAL OF THE WORLD (University of Akron Press), John W. Kropf explores the history of the American Crayon Co., Sandusky, OH, and his own family, while telling a bigger story about America. We get into the family stories & lore that led him to write the book, the toughest parts of researching it, when he realized that the story would involve the history of American immigration, innovation, chemistry, industry, public education, labor, and the rapaciousness of finance, and why he made sure to get a Gordon Lightfoot reference into its pages. We also talk about what crayons meant to American kids, whether he still draws with them, why his family sold out of the company, and how he met the challenge of including personal memoir in the story of a company town. Plus we contrast his multi-multi-generational history in America with my rootless cosmopolitanism, reflect on his writing life, and figure out who he’s been reading lately. Give it a listen! And go read Color Capital of the World!
“Landscape is a storehouse of memory for community, and once the landscape is changed, once the factory is demolished, there’s that risk that memory is going to be erased.”
About our Guest
John Kropf serves as the Global Chief Privacy Officer for a Fortune 500 company. John previously worked as an Attorney-Advisor and policy director for various U.S. Government Agencies including the Departments of Justice, State, Homeland Security, and USAID. He also teaches as an adjunct professor at the George Washington University Law School. John has also published a travel-adventure book based on his two years living in Turkmenistan, Unknown Sands: Travels in the World’s Most Isolated Country, and a second book, Color Capital of the World: Growing Up with the Legacy of a Crayon Factory. He lives in the Washington, DC. area with his wife Eileen, their cat Poppy and dog, Caia.
Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded remotely via Zencastr. I used a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Zoom PodTrak P4. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of John by someone else. It’s on my instagram.