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Etch-A-Sketch Inventor Andre Cassagnes Dies In France

Andre Cassagnes died on January 16th in a Paris suburb. His name is not immediately known by most of us, but his invention, the Etch A Sketch, is one of the most iconic toys of the last 50 years – a staple of the Ohio Art Company. Cassagnes, a French electrician, came up with the idea in 1950 after peeling a decal off of a light switch plate and noticing the graphite stuck to the plastic surface of the plate that was easily marked with a pencil. The first prototype was little more than a joystick, glass and some aluminum powder and made it’s debut at a toy fair in Nuremburg, Germany in 1959 under the name L ‘Ecran Magique or ‘Magic Screen’.

It immediately got the attention of American Henry Winzeler, who was the founder and president of the Ohio Art Company, who licensed the invention and introduced it as the Etch-A-Sketch in the U.S. in 1960. They did replace the joystick with the two white knobs on either side to look more like a television.

It is very difficult to imagine our world without the Etch-A-Sketch, which brought so much joy to so many children over the years. I am not an artist and had trouble drawing anything significant with the toy, but I sure spent many hours trying to figure it out.

The toy all but faded from view in recent years thanks to video games, but enjoyed a tremendous resurgence after appearing in the first two ‘Toy Story’ movies. It gained even more popularity last year when an aide to Mitt Romney likened his campaign strategy to erasing an Etch-A-Sketch. Thank you Mr. Cassagnes, may you rest in peace. Below is a video about how the Etch A Sketch works.

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