The History of LEGO: The Story Behind The Iconic Toy June 27, 2022 – Posted in: Blog
Simple block-shaped toys have been around for hundreds of years, but it took someone as genius as Ole Kirk Christiansen in the 20th century to create the block shapes we know today as LEGO blocks.
The story begins in 1932 in the village of Billund, Denmark, long before LEGO was known as a toy brand. Ole, who is a carpenter, opened a building materials shop and carpentry workshop with his son Godtfred who was only 12 years old at the time.
Quoted from Mental Floss, they produce ladders, ironing boards to wooden toys. It wasn’t until 1934 that they adopted the LEGO name for their company. LEGO is taken from the Danish word leg godt which means to play well.
The company grew from just six employees in 1934 to 40 in 1942. LEGO was also quite progressive and became the first company to use the latest materials and technologies. LEGO became the first Danish company to have a plastic injection machine.
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In 1947, Ole adopted the idea of making British toys with the Kiddicraft Self-Locking Building Bricks design. But two years later, they started producing their version, in which the blocks were made with a peg at the top and a hollow hole at the bottom, allowing toys to be attached by creating complex structures, which was never possible with a simple block of wood.
This became the forerunner of today’s LEGO blocks. Unfortunately, the world wasn’t ready for plastic toys at the time, so sales of plastic LEGO toys in the early 50s were mediocre. Unfortunately in 1958, Ole died of a heart attack at the age of 66, so he could not see the glory of his company.
The company was taken over by his son and in the same year, the beam was perfected with a hollow cylinder at the bottom which made the grip even stronger. But in 1960, the factory burned down so LEGO finally focused on producing plastic toys and abandoned wooden toys.
In 1962, the first LEGO wheels were created for building vehicles from LEGO blocks. After that, the Lego Railway System was also produced until the opening of the first Legoland Park in Billund in June 1968. Until now, LEGO toys have become one of the most popular toys in the world, with various series and modern versions at the most expensive prices.
Lego bricks have always had self-development abilities that some teachers consider an invaluable asset in helping children develop creativity and problem-solving skills. Since the 1960s, teachers have been using Lego bricks in their classrooms for a variety of things.
In 1980, the Lego Group established a Department of Educational Products (later renamed “Lego Dacta” in 1989), which specifically functions to develop the potential for educational elements in the toys they make. Lego assembly and packaging factory opened in Switzerland, followed by the opening of another factory in the city of Jutland, Denmark, which produces Lego tires.
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The second generation of Lego train toys appeared in 1981. As with previous versions, this toy is equipped with 4.5 V (battery-powered) or 12 V (mains powered) but comes with more accessories, including lights that can turn on, a signal and position that can be controlled remotely, and a train crossing system.
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In August 1988, 38 children from 17 countries took part in the Lego World Championship building contest, which was held in Billund. In the same year, Lego Canada was founded. The Lego line grew again in 1989 with the release of the Lego Pirates series, which featured various pirate ships, sand islands, and treasures; it is also the first Lego toy series to not use a Minifigure with a smiling face and create a number of pirate characters.
The Lego Group’s Department of Educational Products was renamed Lego Dakta this year; the name is taken from the Greek word “didactic”, which roughly means “learning about the learning process.” Dr. Seymour Papert of MIT’s Computer Learning Laboratory has been named “Lego Learning Research Professor” for his work in linking the Logo programming language to Lego products.
A new toy series designed for more experienced Lego builders was released in 1990. The three Model Team sets, including a race car and an off-road vehicle, feature a level of detail and realism not previously seen in any Lego toy series. While the Technic series is mechanically accurate, the Model Team is both visually and stylistically accurate.
The Lego Group became one of the ten largest toy companies in the world this year, being the only toy company from Europe to be in the Top 10. Legoland Billund, for the first time in its history, was visited by more than one million visitors in the same year.
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