Monday, August 29, 2016
Who Created LEGO, Anyway? The History of LEGO
You know and love them as your child’s favorite toys, and you even know them as your own favorite toys from childhood (or today!). You probably know that LEGO bricks have been around for a long time, growing in popularity and gradually turning into an empire that includes theme parks, movies and more. But just how much do you know about how LEGO bricks got their start? If you’re like most of us, not much! It turns out the LEGO company has a history that is just as fun as the sets themselves, so we’re going to give you a quick lesson in the history of LEGO. Below are some key dates surrounding the invention and growth of the legendary brands:
1891: This is the year the man who started it all, Danish carpenter Ole Kirk Christiansen, was born. The tenth son in an impoverished family, Christiansen lost his job during the Depression and started making wooden toys in 1932 to eke out a living. When he saw how much his children loved his wooden toy ducks in particular, he scraped together some leftover wood and put the ducks into production. Eventually, he started building miniature versions of the chairs and houses he worked on as a carpenter. We’re not happy he fell on hard times, but we sure are pleased it led to the next great chapter in his life!
1947: Several years and one factory fire later, Christiansen decided to reinvent his business by ditching the wood and moving on to plastics, producing over 200 plastic bears and rattles over the next two years. Around this time, he named his business LEGO, a play on the Danish words leg godt (“play well”). The decision to switch to plastic was a riskier move than it seems, as the public at the time was by and large against plastic toys. In fact, a Danish trade magazine called Toy Times skeptically proclaimed in the 1950’s that plastic would never be able to replace wooden toys.
1949: LEGO began producing “automatic binding bricks,” the earliest version of the bricks we know and love today. They were a modification of the UK-based Kiddicraft Self-Locking Bricks, released in 1947. These, in turn, were a modification of the classically popular – but obviously inferior – stacking blocks.
1955: LEGO introduced the “play and learn” concept, which they still use today.
1958: Christiansen died from a heart attack at the age of 66, leaving his third son, Godtfred Kirk Christiansen, to run the company. The latter Christiansen saw vast potential in the interlocking bricks as a tool for creative play, and worked tirelessly to improve upon their original design, making them more versatile and strengthening their locking abilities. He also switched the type of plastic used. This is the year the modern LEGO brick design was patented. Amazingly, those early bricks are still compatible with the bricks that are produced today!
1968: Within just ten years, LEGO had become so popular that it was able to open the LEGOLAND theme park in Denmark. Today, there are nine LEGOLAND parks with three more in the works, in locations ranging from California to Malaysia.
1969: Spurred on by the success of the original LEGO bricks and hoping to introduce an even younger audience to creative play, the LEGO group created the DUPLO line, consisting of bricks that are about twice the size of traditional LEGO bricks.
1978: LEGO introduced the first human-like minifigures, now an iconic part of most LEGO sets.
Since the 70’s, LEGO has continued to venture into fun and educational territories ranging from its popular work with NASA to send LEGO into space to an innovative partnership with MIT that led to the LEGO MINDSTORM program. They were one of the original inductees into the National Toy Hall of Fame in 1998, and just last year, they replaced Ferrari as the “world’s most powerful brand.” And all of this because of one poor but enterprising construction worker! We can’t wait to see where else LEGO takes us over the years, and we know it will lead to even more favorites and “firsts.”
at 6:26:00 AM