This Month in History - July

Etch-a-Sketch goes on sale (1960)

Its bright red frame isn't showing signs of gray. Its silver-gray drawing surfaces hasn't lost its shine. Its width still measures a trim of 9 ½ inches… but the Etch A Sketch Magic Screen® is almost 40 years old. It seems like only yesterday when the first Etch A Sketch® toys were produced on July 12, 1960. Here's the story…

In the late 1950's, a man by the name of Arthur Granjean invented something he called "L'Ecran Magique", the magic screen, in his garage. In 1959, he took his drawing toy to the International Toy Fair in Nuremburg, Germany. The Ohio Art Company saw it but had no interest in the toy. When Ohio Art saw the toy a second time, they decided to take a chance on the product. The L'Ecran Magique was soon renamed the Etch A Sketch® and became the most popular drawing toy in the business. In the 1960, Ohio Art used television to advertise the Etch A Sketch®.

The response was so incredible that the company decided to continue manufacturing them until noon Christmas Eve 1960. The Etch A Sketches® were then immediately shipped to the West Coast so people in California could buy Etch A Sketch® on Christmas Eve and have them for Christmas.

The Etch A Sketch® has changed very little over the years. In the 1970s, Ohio Art offered hot pink and blue frames. But people still wanted the bright red frames that were so popular. The print on the frame has changed slightly, but the inner workings have remained exactly the same. The screen's reverse side is coated with a mixture of aluminum powder and plastic beads. The left and right knobs control the horizontal and vertical rods, moving the stylus where the two meet. When the stylus moves, it scrapes the screen leaving the line you see. The knobs have changed slightly. The new shape has a different edge for easier handling and turning.

What makes the Etch a Sketch® so popular? It has influenced a generation of artists who have made a road for themselves to press; magazines, newspapers, and TV. The Etch A Sketch® club often features these artists in its newsletter. The Etch A Sketch® Club was formed in 1978 and has an average of 2000 members, ranging from age two to eighty-two.

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