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Originally published Saturday, February 2, 2013 at 5:49 PM

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Etch A Sketch inventor, 86, dies in France

André Cassagnes, who came up with Etch A Sketch in the late 1950s, died Jan. 16, at 86.

The Associated Press


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

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

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

Mr. Cassagnes, then an electrical technician, came up with the Etch A Sketch idea in the late 1950s.

Ohio Art saw his idea at the Nuremberg Toy Fair in 1959. The toy with the red frame and two white knobs has a gray screen that can be wiped clean after each artwork by turning the toy upside down. It 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 general-election 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.