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Entertainment History: The Toys of Ohio Art Company

Bryan, Ohio in 1910 (public domain)

Bryan, Ohio in 1910 (public domain)

Etch-A-Sketch, Born July 1960

In 1908 in Archbold OH, not far from Toledo, a man interested in art all his life formed a toy manufacturing company based on art. Indeed, Henry Simon Winzeler called his factory Ohio Art Company. Not thinking of toys specifically, he manufactured novelty items and picture frames before hitting upon a line of actual toys.

During World Wars I and II, the company turned to manufacturing parts for the defense industry, but returned to toys and metal lithographs afterwards.

After a move to Bryan, Ohio farther west of Archbold and Toledo, the first toy to be produced was the windmill in 1919, followed by a monkey, tea sets, drums, and others.

Etch-A-Sketch® was a popular picture generating toy based on the idea of the television screen. Invented in France by M. Andre Cassagnes, it came to the attention of Ohio Art, which met with the inventor to produce the toy. It was a big hit in 1960 and all the girls and boys wanted them. These drawing screens were taken to school after Christmas and used in the classrooms for fun and education.

At one time in the 1980s, rumors spread that Ohio Art was going to close down. Adults and kids alike groaned, "No more Etch-A-Sketch®!"

Instead, Ohio Art has remained a healthy business and manufactures Etch-A Sketch® in varying sizes, K's Kids® toys for toddlers and babies, and metal lithography for several major corporations in America.

Today, it operates under the Killgallon family, members of whom had worked with the founders of Ohio Art Company.

The popular drawing screen toy is available in the 21st century in a number of sizes and colors, along with special versions made to incorporate Disney characters and other cartoon personalities.

A digital version of the drawing screen is also on the market and there is also a related application for iPhone® and iPod Touch®.

Vintage Etch A Sketch Animator

(public domain)

(public domain)


Ohio Art produces another line of drawing screens that they call Magna Doodle® and includes a number of styles and colors for all ages.

Dolls are a part of Ohio Art's products in the Betty Spaghettyi® series. The names of these dolls include Wild Style, Winter Wow, Color Crazy Caucasian, Color Crazy African American, Go-Go Glam Zoe, Mermaid Madness, Rockin' Out, You Glow Girl, Australian, Chic African American, Stylin' Heads, Imagenetics (magnet play sets), and others.

These are tall, thin dolls with lots of colorful hair. The Stylin' Heads are specifically for hair styling.

Arm-Mounted Water Cannons

The A.R.M.(Aquatic Revenge Machine) 4000 XL is a water gun from 2003. It was a success for Ohio Art, but Hasbro toy company sued them over the rights to the toy design. Ohio Art was vindicated when the case was dismissed.

K's Kids (R)

Ohio Art makes K's Kids® products in order to provide educational entertainment opportunities to babies and toddlers that are fun and safe. The concept of this toy line was developed by a team of parents, childhood development professionals, and psychologists and launched in 1997. Within just five years, the products in this line sold in over 50 countries and won several awards for safety and effectiveness.

This product line applies what is known at Ohio Art as the Learning Triangle, consisting of attention to the physical, mental/cognitive, and social aspects of each individual child, in that order. In a well prepared paradigm, the system of products comes with a set of guidelines for parents that indicates exactly what levels and types of development can be expected with the use of each toy. It is not a hit and miss, random play system, but an effective educational and developmental tool set.

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Physical development is targeted first, because it is the first to make progress in a new human being. Physical development helps spur mental development. The toys in this line target the senses, and gross and fine motor movements. Some systenms target gross motor movemens and skip the smaller fine movements, or overtax and frustrate the child with fine movements, while skipping the gross movement skills. They are equally as important, but in a common- sense order, from gross (swinging arms) to progressively more fine (like picking a dime up form a tabletop or using tweezers).

Three different types of Intelligences are targeted in the mental component of this toy system. These are logical, artistic, and linguistic intelligences and they are all absolutely vital to effective childhood development.

The social component of this toy and learning system focuses on emotional development, with soft toys; communications with the use of puppets and role playing stories, and self-esteem via puzzles and such other things that develop logic as well as self esteem.

Allof these toys meet safety standards for the USA, the European Community, China, Japan, and New Zealand.

It's Slinky

Video Parody: It's Log

Guest Toy: Slinky (R)

Slinky® is not one of the products designed and manufactured at Ohio Art, but it has sometimes been distributed with Ohio Art toys in the past and is available in a gift-pack package of toys that includes a butterfly-design yo-yo as well the spring toy and a drawing screen.

The spring toy was invented by founders of James Industries during World War II in 1945 in Pennsylvania and was been named the Pennsylvania State Toy in 2001 when it was inducted into the Toy Hall of Fame. When the Jameses retired, they sold their company to Poof.

"It's Slinky" became the theme song for the commercial and the toy and was released as a hit single recording in 1962. To the right is a video of one of the original commercials, along with one of it's most popular parodies, "It's Log", from The Ren and Stimpy Show.

Although the Log manufacturer is called "Blammo" as a parody of Wham-O Inc., it may also be a parody of Poof® products.

"We love OUR log!"

"We love OUR log!"

Slinky Rides the Escalator

What's Your Favorite?

Slinky Juggling In China

Comments and Memories

HomerMCho on August 28, 2011:

Amazing hub.

hameidinger on May 11, 2011:

I am glad to visit this hub, Thanks for sharing.

Mahfuza Urpa from Bangladesh on October 17, 2009:

Patty, thanks for sharing your great hub!! I didn't know about this before. So, enjoying your writing.

Money Glitch from Texas on October 14, 2009:

Thanks for sharing the history of these toys. It's amazing after so many years that Etch A Sketch and Slinkys are still around an still loved by kids.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on October 14, 2009:

Christoph - I'm about to get one of the keychain sized Etch A Sketches soon. It's still fun.

Don White - Thanks very much for the encouragement.:)

dusanotes from Windermere, FL on October 14, 2009:

That's what I like about your hubs, Patty Inglish. They are very comprehensive. I learned a lot of history, plus a lot about different toy manufacturers and the problems they have between one another - competition and law suits. But most of all, I enjoy the way you present your material. Your writing is beautiful and your display or layout is very good. Keep up the good work.

Don White

Christoph Reilly from St. Louis on October 13, 2009:

I am a huge fan of the "etch a sketch." When you see some of the fancy, detailed drawings people have done with them, they can be mind boggling, nothing like the stuff I used to do. The slinky was cool, but it never worked for me like it did in the commercial except when you got its placement 'just right'. Thanks for the trip down memory lane!

Godslittlechild on October 13, 2009:

I love the nostalgia of the vintage toys.

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