Happy Birthday, Etch A Sketch!

Etch A Sketch, the iconic drawing toy of the 1960s and 1970s, is celebrating its 60th birthday this year. It was invented in the mid 1950s by Andre Cassagnes, an electrician in France. Lacking funds to patent his invention, Mr Cassagnes sought help from an investor named Paul Chaze. Chaze agreed to pay the patent application fees and act as Cassagnes’ agent. He eventually persuaded the Ohio Art Company to license the toy, which it launched during the 1960 holiday season.

Curiously, when Chaze sent his business partner Arthur Grandjean to apply for a patent, somehow Grandjean’s name ended up on the application as the inventor. Grandjean applied for a French patent in May 1959, which was followed two months later by a U.S. application. The U.S. patent, 3,055,113, issued on May 31, 1962. Other patents followed in Canada, Great Britain, Germany, Holland, Belgium, and Luxembourg.

Although Etch A Sketch became a hugely popular toy the patent makes only a minor reference to its amusement applications. In fact, the title of the patent is “Tracing Device”. The patent is classified under Class 33, geometrical instruments.

The Ohio Art Company continued to develop the Etch A Sketch in response to changing tastes and technology. In 1988, it received a patent, 4,764,763, for an electronic version of the toy marketed as the Etch A Sketch Animator 2000. It was not a success. The original design is as popular as ever and is sold in classic, mini, pocket and travel sizes.

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