French inventor of Etch A Sketch dies, aged 86

Sun Feb 3, 2013 5:44pm EST

(Reuters) - Andre Cassagnes, inventor of the iconic and award-winning childhood drawing toy, Etch A Sketch, died on January 16 in a Paris suburb. He was 86.

The electrical technician dreamed up the world-famous toy and turned it into a symbol of fleeting creativity, the clean slate for idle doodles and a tableau of memories for generations of Americans.

Etch A Sketch was introduced in the United States in 1960 by Ohio Art Co, making its mark as the top-selling Christmas toy that year.

The mess-free playroom staple lets budding sketchers twist two knobs on a red, plastic frame to displace aluminum powder on the back of a gray screen with a stylus, leaving a line drawing that can be erased with a quick shake.

"His invention brought so much joy to so many over a long period of time," Larry Killgallon, president of the Ohio Art Company, said in a statement announcing Cassagnes' death.

"I remember making works of art of the Etch A Sketch as a child, in hindsight - realizing that they were merely poorly drawn stick figures. Nonetheless, I, as well as many others, owe thanks to Mr. Cassagnes for a toy embedded in so many of my childhood memories."

Before the Etch A Sketch, Cassagnes was recognized as a talented modular kite designer. He was the most famous competitive kite maker in France during the 1980s, and was called the "Ingenious Father of French Kiting," according to Bill Killgallon, chairman of the Ohio Art Company, quoting Cassagnes' daughter, Sophie.

When Etch A Sketch hit the United States, it won several American toy awards and has been a part of American pop culture ever since, with appearances in popular movies such as "Toy Story."

It is featured in Oregon's National Toy Hall of Fame and is on the Toy Industry Association's "Century of Toys" list, according to Ohio Art.

"The Ohio Art Company would like to thank this kind-hearted man for allowing us to share in his success in making so many children smile," company officials said the statement.

(Reporting By Karen Brooks; Editing by Tim Gaynor, Eric Walsh and Stacey Joyce)

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