Plastics can't celebrate a century without including two iconic toys that have delighted kids and adults for decades.
The Etch A Sketch is a boomer at age 47, and View-Master is about 20 years older, introduced in 1939 and 1940 at World Fairs in San Francisco and New York, according to toy industry historian Chris Byrne of New York.
Etch A Sketch hit the market in 1960. Manufacturer Ohio Art Co. in Bryan, Ohio, kept its production line running until noon Christmas Eve that year to meet demand for it, Byrne said in a July 23 telephone interview.
“In 1960 it was a huge sensation,” he said. “It was one of the toys of the year. Why do kids like it? Because it is magic. Every child has creative impulses that are not married to a time and place. It's still a classic toy.”
The concept for the drawing toy came from France, Byrne said, where it was developed in the late 1950s as L'Ecran Magique — the magic crayon.
Ohio Art's enhancements to the line include an Etch A Sketch molded to look like SpongeBob and another with a Dora the Explorer theme.
Ohio Art in 2000 shifted production of the classic Etch A Sketch to China. “View-Master and Etch A Sketch were two of the last to leave [the U.S.],” Byrne said.
View-Master was invented by William Gruber of Oregon, who wanted to update the stereoscope. The product originally was polypropylene but also has been polystyrene, said Byrne. View-Master tied into peoples' views of the world around them, he said.
“It really is magical, because kids are very curious about the world,” he said. “And with this, you open up that world to them.
View-Master is made and marketed by Fisher-Price Inc., a unit of Mattel Inc. of El Segundo, Calif.