“Truly fascinating fun for everyone in the family!” On July 12, 1960, the world would meet the Etch-a-Sketch for the very first time. Celebrate one of the most memorable toys of all time courtesy of these fascinating facts.
Ever heard of the Ohio Art Company? Even if you haven’t, chances are you’ve played with their crowning achievement at least once in your life. Who among us doesn’t have memories tied to the endless possibilities of an Etch-a-Sketch? Some of said memories may be immensely frustrating, sure. Yet few toy inventions have had the lasting cultural impact of this one-of-a-kind creation.
As such, we’re celebrating the Etch-a-Sketch’s 61st birthday today with some truly fascinating facts – like how this children’s toy originally featured a glass screen…
“Doodle dialing… Yet this is a toy that’s education as well as fun! It takes practice, skill, and imagination to manipulate the knobs to form letters, pictures, charts, and designs on the magic screen! To clear the surface, turn Etch-A-Sketch upside down, shake it and the lines disappear. Toy is 9 1/2 x 7 1/2 inches; 1/3/4 inches deep.”Original Ohio Toy Company advert for Etch-a-Sketch
So reads the very first advert for Ohio Toy Company’s prized release. It would be a long and winding road to the public, but once the Etch-a-sketch hit – it would never leave toy stores.
The 1960s: A “Peak Baby Boom” Toy
On July 12, 1960, the Etch-a-Sketch would finally hit consumers. It did so at the very peak of the Baby Boom for just $2.99. By today’s inflation standards, that’s the equivalent of almost a $30 toy.
Regardless of the time’s hefty price-tag, literal millions of baby boomers would grow up doodling away on the “magic screen”. This is largely due to Ohio Toy Company’s fight to prepare the toy in time for a Christmas 1960 release. It would then sell over 600,000 units in its first year alone!
A French Electrician Invented the Etch-a-Sketch
According to CNBC‘s extensive write-up on the toy, the Etch-a-Sketch was invented in the late 1950s by André Cassagnes. Cassagnes, an electrician born in France, would name his toy the “L’Écran Magique” – or “The Magic Screen.”
At first, the Ohio Toy Company had no interest in Cassagnes’ invention, having seen it at the International Toy Fair in Germany. Yet a second look would bring the company on board, and the Etch-a-Sketch was born.
Playing with Glass…
Incredibly, the Etch-a-Sketch originally featured a glass screen. While this would be criticized heavily by safety and child advocates, glass would remain the face of the toy for an entire decade.
Then in November of 1970, the Consumers Union would file a petition with the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. The New York Times would report as much in their article, “3 Toys Redesigned to Eliminate Peril,” that same month.
This petition led to emergency action under the 1969 Child Protection and Toy Safety Act. Thanks to all of the above, the Etch-a-Sketch would finally feature a far-safer plastic screen forever after.
Today, the toy is owned by Spin Master of Canada and remains one of the most popular “classic toys” of all time.