Etch A Sketch inventor dies in France at 86

BRYAN, Ohio — Andre Cassagnes, the inventor of the Etch A Sketch that generations of children drew on, shook up and started over, has died in France, the toy’s maker said.

Cassagnes died Jan. 16 in a Paris suburb at age 86, said the Ohio Art Co., based in Bryan in northwest Ohio. The cause wasn’t disclosed Saturday.

“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,” said Larry Killgallon, president of Ohio Art.

Then an electrical technician, Cassagnes came upon the Etch A Sketch idea in the late 1950s when he peeled a translucent decal from a light switch plate and found pencil mark images transferred to the opposite face, the Toy Industry Association said.

Ohio Art saw his idea at the Nurenberg Toy Fair in 1959. The toy, with its gray screen, red frame and two white knobs that are twisted back and forth to create drawings, was launched in 1960 and became the top seller that holiday season. More than 100 million have been sold worldwide since.

Though passed over in popularity for video games and gadgets, the toy has a steady market, the company has said. It got a big jump in sales after Etch A Sketch was featured in the first two “Toy Story” movies, and Ohio Art capitalized on a much-publicized gaffe by a Mitt Romney aide during last year’s presidential election, who was asked about his candidate’s views during the primary season versus the general election.

He likened the campaign to an Etch A Sketch: “You can kind of shake it up and we start all over again.”

Democrats and Republicans alike seized on the remark as evidence that Romney was willing to change his positions for political gain. And Ohio Art seized on the publicity, creating a politically themed ad campaign and manufacturing blue versions of the famously red toy.

Etch A Sketches were made in Ohio until 2000, when the company moved production to China because of increasing costs.

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