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Andre Cassagnes, at 86; inventor of Etch A Sketch

More than 100 million Etch A Sketches have been sold.

Ohio Art Co.

More than 100 million Etch A Sketches have been sold.

BRYAN, Ohio — Andre Cassagnes, inventor of the Etch A Sketch that generations of children drew on, shook up, and started over, has died in France, the toy’s maker said Saturday.

Mr. Cassagnes died Jan. 16 in a Paris suburb at age 86, said the Ohio Art Co., based in Bryan in northwest Ohio. The cause was not disclosed.

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Then an electrical technician, Mr. Cassagnes came upon the Etch A Sketch idea in the late 1950s when he peeled a translucent decal from a light switch plate and found pencil mark images transferred to the opposite face, the Toy Industry Association said.

Ohio Art saw his invention at the Nuremberg Toy Fair in 1959. The toy, with its gray screen, red frame, and two white knobs that are twisted back and forth to create drawings, was launched in 1960 and became the top seller that holiday season. More than 100 million have been sold worldwide since.

It got a big jump in sales after Etch A Sketch was featured in the first two ‘‘Toy Story’’ movies. Ohio Art also capitalized on a much-publicized gaffe during last year’s presidential election by a Mitt Romney aide, who was asked about his candidate’s views during the primary season versus the general election. The aide likened the campaign to an Etch A Sketch: ‘‘You can kind of shake it up and we start all over again.’’

Democrats and Republicans seized on the remark as evidence that Romney was willing to change his positions for political gain. And Ohio Art seized on the publicity, creating a politically themed ad campaign and manufacturing blue versions of the famously red toy.

The toys were made in Ohio until 2000, when the firm moved production to China.

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