Toys are a big part of many people’s childhoods. In fact, some toys and games are so beloved that they become infused with pop-culture—that description certainly applies to Etch-A-Sketch, one of the most popular toys ever created which boasts a 95% “world awareness” factor.
July 12th 2015 marks the 55th anniversary of Etch-A-Sketch which continues to defy the technological toy market by remaining a featured plaything in most American homes. Etch-A-Sketch, described as a “mechanical drawing toy,” was first introduced to the market in 1960 by the Ohio Art Company. From the time of its release the toy was a massive success; it even managed to be the #1 selling toy for Christmas in 1960. Geared towards children aged 3 and up, it was featured on several TV shows and was so widely advertised that, by the 1980s, it seemed as if everyone had one—owed in part to its relatively low-cost which made it accessible even to underprivileged children.
Etch-A-Sketch looks somewhat like a tablet; it is a fairly flat rectangle with a wide grayish “screen” in the center and two white knobs on the left and right hand sides of the red frame that surrounds the screen. It works on a simple concept: children twist and turn the two knobs either horizontally or vertically and watch the screen as lines begin to form. When children wish to draw something new they simply shake the toy until the gray screen is blank again.
Although its initial demand was central to America, Etch-A-Sketch quickly gained popularity all across the globe. In fact, the toy was invented in the late 1950s by a Frenchman named Andre Cassagnes. Andre took his toy design to the 1959 International Toy Fair in Nuremberg, Germany, where the Ohio Art Company saw it and decided to market it. As of 2015, it is estimated that over 175 million units have been sold worldwide!
Moreover, the toy has been featured in blockbuster films including “Toy Story” and “Elf.” The traditional red exterior of the toy is still available but now the line has expanded to include popular licenses including Disney’s Frozen, Hello Kitty and Dora the Explorer. The “magic screen” was inducted into Rochester’s National Toy Hall of Fame in 1998 and added to the Toy Industry Association’s “Century of Toys List” 2003.
The classic Etch-A-Sketch is still available nationwide at stores across the nation and typically retails for $14.99. Moreover, the Ohio Art Company is still fully operational and remains one of the world’s most widely recognized toy companies. Since its establishment in 1908 the Ohio Art Company has been committed to developing innovative toys that encourage creativity and learning while also providing hours of enjoyment, encouraging self-expression and promoting positive development. Etch-A-Sketch is the brand’s most famous toy, but they also have other offerings such as “Nano Blocks” and “Doodle Sketch” (which essentially works like Etch-A-Sketch only for younger children).
“The Ohio Art Company was founded at a time when toys were made out of metal,” President Martin Killgallon—whose father and grandfather also worked for the company—stated in a recent interview. “Now we make all our toys with plastic but we still have a secondary service on the side and that is metal lithography. We can burn text and designs onto metal objects like popcorn stands, signs and so on. That service began after metal toys went out of fashion and the company needed to find a productive way to use all the excess metal in their factory.”
Still going strong over 100 years after their establishment, the Ohio Art Company plans to celebrate Etch-A-Sketch’s birthday with in-store parties. Etch-A-Sketch shaped cookies will be served and there will likely be games and sales. If you have an Ohio Art Company store near you, will certainly be worth visiting on July 12.
To find out more visit the Ohio Art Company official website and Etch-A-Sketch’s Facebook and Twitter. Tweet with them by using the code # EtchASketch55Bday