French inventor André Cassagnes created what he called The Magic Screen, L’Ecran Magique, in his basement in the late 1950s.

English: The Jack of Hearts, highly detailed, ...

The Jack of Hearts, highly detailed, done on the Etch A Sketch (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After a chance discovery that when he wrote with a pencil on a decal covered with metal powder at work, a picture-frame cover manufacturing company that used aluminum powder in its manufacturing process, the writing was visible on the other side of the decal, he began to play around with how this might be useful.

In 1959, he took his invention to the International Toy Fair in Nuremburg, Germany, then, nine months later, to a toy show in New York.

The Ohio Art Company picked it up, renamed it Etch A Sketch and launched it on July 12, 1960 in time for the Christmas season.

How Does It Work?

The plastic screen is coated with gray aluminum powder.

Two styluses inside the case move up or down and left or right, dragging through the powder to reveal the dark inside of the case, to “draw.”

When you shake the case, the screen is coated with aluminum powder again.

Tiny plastic beads keep the powder from clumping.

Cassagnes became an electrician because he was allergic to flour and could not work in his parents’ bakery.

The inventor eventually went into competitive kite design.

At Cassagne’s death on January 16, 2013, at age 86, more than 100 million had been sold.

No batteries.


Carol Covin, Granny-Guru

Author, “Who Gets to Name Grandma? The Wisdom of Mothers and Grandmothers”


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