Etch A Sketch Inventor Andre Cassagnes Dies At 86

Andre Cassagnes, the French electrician who invented the Etch A Sketch, has died near Paris at the age of 86. His death occurred in mid January, but the Ohio Art Company, which still produces the mechanical drawing toy from the Baby Boomer generation, just made the announcement of his passing this weekend.

The New York Times describes how Etch A Sketch caught on in a big way well before the era of video games or other electronic devices:

“A chance inspiration involving metal particles and the tip of a pencil led Mr. Cassagnes to develop Etch A Sketch in the late 1950s. First marketed in 1960, the toy — with its rectangular gray screen, red frame and two white knobs — quickly became one of the brightest stars in the constellation of midcentury childhood amusements that included Lincoln Logs and the Slinky.”

Etch A Sketch — which was originally called the L’Ecran Magique (The Magic Screen) after Cassagnes invented it in his garage in 1950 and made its debut in a Nuremberg, Germany toy fair — was licensed by the Ohio Art Company for distribution in the US starting in 1960. According to CNN, about 150 million Etch A Sketch units have been sold since then. They are now manufactured in China rather than Ohio however.

The cause of death of Andre Cassagnes has not bee disclosed as yet.

The Times notes that Etch A Sketch received an unusual amount of publicity in 2012 when Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom referred to the switch in tactics from the primaries to the general election as “almost like an Etch A Sketch.” Etch A Sketch also appeared in Toy Story and Toy Story 2.

In a statement, Ohio Art President Larry Killgallon made these comments on the passing of Andre Cassagnes:

“Etch A Sketch has brought much success to the Ohio Art Company, and we will be eternally grateful to Andre for that. His invention brought joy to so many over such a long period of time.”

Etch A Sketch was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame in 1998.

[Image credit: Ignacio Icke]