The “Etch a Sketch” inventor: André Cassagnes

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Today for “Patents world” we talk about André Cassagnes, the man who invented legendary toy: the “Etch a sketch”, herald of the modern tablets. We present a video through which The Ohio Art Company and the Toy & Game Inventors Conference (TAGIE) honor him and his timeless invention.

André Cassagnes was born in 1926 outside Paris. As a young man, started to work in a factory as electrical technician, and in the late 1950s, while installing a light-switch plate, he peeled the translucent protective label off the new plate, and happened to make some inscriptions on it in pencil. He noticed that the marks became visible on the reverse side of the decal. This is the origin of the idea of inventing a drawing toy. 

He invented the mechanical drawing toy which became a real icon, a rectangular red plastic box with a grey screen and two white knobs: the “Etch a sketch”.  In 1959 he took his invention to the Nuremberg Toy Fair and the American company “Ohio Art” bought the rights for $25.000.

The charm and cause of its success indeed is its simplicity, the way it frees imagination and the possibility to start over and over again.

  • The toy, licensed in 1960, sold more than 100 million units worldwide in 50 years and earned a place in America’s National Toy Hall of Fame, alongside Barbie and Mr Potato Head.
  • Was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame in Rochester in 1998.
  • In 2003, the Toy Industry Association named it one of the hundred best toys of the 20th century.
  • Was one of the first toys ever advertised on TV.

Despite the big success of the invention, he never took full credit or royalties for it. In fact, in the middle 1950s he applied for a patent application but did not have the equivalent to pay to have the patent registered. He presented his proposal to a company called MAI, and its owner Paul Chaze agreed to invest in it and produce the initial tooling as well as agreeing to loan Cassagnes the funds to officially register his patent. A man called Arthur Grandjean did the paperwork and got his name on it.

Here you can find the US patent document: US3055113

As a tribute to the memory of this great inventor, we would also like to propose a wonderful illustrated tribute, a video developed by Cristoph Niemann of the New York Times, who used the iconic toy to illustrate the inventor’s life.

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