Inventor of the Etch-A-Sketch, Andre Cassagnes, died in Paris on January 16 at the age of 86. The cause of death has not been disclosed. Cassagnes was born just outside of Paris in 1926, and grew up to work in his parents’ bakery as a teenager. He eventually became an electrician at a French company that used aluminum powder in the manufacturing process. After making a light switch plate covered with a translucent decal, he found out how a pencil would transfer its images to the other side of the plate, and the Etch-A-Sketch was invented.
Few of us would not be familiar with the Etch-a-Sketch, as it is truly a defining part of many of our — and our parents — childhoods. Likewise, most of today’s children are familiar with it as it’s likely a toy parents have excitedly passed along to them. While recent developments in digital computing like the iPad and smartphones may have lessened kids’ interest in this completely analog artistic toy, there’s something extremely charming about the impermanent art kids and adults can create with it.
Originally called the Telecran, the original Etch-A-Sketch was later renamed L’Ecran Magique, or “The Magic Screen,” and debuted at a toy fair in Nuremburg, Germany, in 1959. Henry Winzeler, founder of The Ohio Art Company, licensed the Magic Screen for 25,000 units and brought it to the United States in 1960, where it quickly became one of the most popular toys in the country. The rest, as they say, is history.
These days, of course, the Etch-A-Sketch may be more familiar to your kids as a character in the Toy Story movies, which the company says gave it a huge boost in sales. There’s also a ton of amazing bits of Etch-A-Sketch artwork out there, like this Flickr photo pool dedicated to the impermanent art form.