Etch-A-Sketch

© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Etch-a-Sketch was originally invented in Paris by garage mechanic Arthur Granjean who called it ‘L’Ecran Magique’, (the Magic Screen). It had the great advantage of being a drawing toy which did not need loose parts or batteries. He took it to the International Toy Fair in Nuremberg in 1959. At first it aroused little interest but eventually The Ohio Art Company took it on and started to manufacture it. Originally made by hand, mass production began in July 1960, and with television advertising, sales soared.

Etch-a-Sketch works using a coating of aluminium powder and plastic beads on the reverse side of the screen. Knobs on the left and right of the screen allow you to scrape this coating up and down and from side to side using a pointed instrument known as a stylus, which is mounted on rails inside the toy. This creates the lines you can see where the coating has been temporarily removed. Shaking the toy restores the coating, ready for a new drawing.

Etch-a-Sketch is still made in exactly the same way today, the only things that have changed over time are the colours and sizes.