Etch A Sketch Inventor Was An Electrical Technician By Day

Audie Cornish and Robert Siegel have a remembrance of Andre Cassagnes, the inventor of the Etch A Sketch. Cassagnes died Jan. 16 at the age of 86.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish. We're going to take a moment now to remember Andre Cassagnes. He was the inventor behind a classic children's toy.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Singing) Etch A Sketch, a magical drawing toy.

SIEGEL: As many of you will remember, the Etch A Sketch is basically a screen with two knobs that draw vertical and horizontal lines. Give the toy a few shakes, and the lines disappear. Andres Cassagnes died January 16 in a Paris suburb. He was 86.

CORNISH: By trade, Cassagnes was a French electrical technician. In the 1950s, he was inspired to create the Etch A Sketch while working at a factory, playing around with a pencil and a sheet covered with aluminum powder.

BILL KILLGALLON: So being an inventor, that sort of stimulated his creative thinking process.

SIEGEL: That's Bill Killgallon, chairman of the Ohio Art Company, which manufactures the Etch A Sketch.

KILLGALLON: He thought for probably a year or so trying to think of how could he monetize this idea that he had.

SIEGEL: Cassagnes was inspired by the television, even calling his prototype the magic screen. His invention debuted at a toy fair in Germany in 1959. And one year later, the Etch A Sketch, as we know it today, was released on the market. Since then, more than 100 million have been sold.

CORNISH: The Etch A Sketch even made a memorable cameo on the campaign trail last year. Back in March, presidential candidate Mitt Romney's senior adviser Eric Fehrnstrom made this high-profile gaffe on CNN.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

ERIC FEHRNSTROM: Well, I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign. Everything changes. It's almost like an Etch A Sketch. You can kind of shake it up, and we start all over again.

CORNISH: It wasn't a great move for Fehrnstrom or Romney, but the comment did cause Ohio Art's stock price to spike, nearly doubling for a time.

SIEGEL: As for Etch A Sketch's creator, Andres Cassagnes, the magic screen never really made him a rich man, but today, we remember him for a toy so classic, it shook the world in more ways than one.

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