I recently read about some World records and there were some about LEGOs. Do you think the person who created this toy thought that people would take his building blocks and build some world record constructions? Probably not. But who knows? So, here is the question of the day:
Who Created LEGO?
The short answer is Ole Kirk Christiansen. The long answer is a family story, as Ole started the company and invented the first brick, but it was his son who made the LEGO brick what it is today.
Everything started in 1932 in Billund, Denmark. Christiansen was then a skilled carpenter and started making wooden toys as a means to sustain his business during the challenging times of the Great Depression.
Initially, his small shop produced practical furniture and miniature models of household items. However, it was the popularity of these miniature models, particularly the yo-yo toy fad, that sparked Christiansen’s interest in expanding his toy production.
Two years later, Ole Kirk Christiansen held a contest among his staff to name the company, and the name LEGO emerged as the winner. Derived from the Danish phrase “leg godt,” meaning “play well.”
From Wood to Plastics, a LEGO story
In 1947, Christiansen recognized the potential of plastics and acquired a plastic injection molding machine. This opened up new possibilities for LEGO, leading to the development of modular toys, including a truck that could be disassembled and reassembled. In 1949, LEGO introduced its first plastic brick, known as the “Automatic Binding Bricks.” These bricks, made from cellulose acetate at the time, featured round studs on top and a hollow rectangular bottom, allowing them to interlock without being too difficult to separate.
However, as customers still favored traditional wooden or metal toys, LEGO experienced poor sales with the plastic bricks, resulting in many returned shipments.
In 1955, Godtfred Christiansen, Ole Kirk’s son, took over as the junior managing director. He came up with a new vision for LEGO, a toy “system” with a wide range of related products. Recognizing the potential of the plastic bricks, Godtfred saw them as the ideal foundation for this system.
After a few years, LEGO made a significant improvement to the design by adding hollow tubes on the underside of the bricks. This greatly enhanced their locking ability and versatility, cementing the LEGO brick design that remains largely unchanged to this day.
Wood toys were still an important part of the LEGO business, but a warehouse fire in 1960 consumed most of LEGO’s inventory of wooden toys. After that, Godtfred Christiansen decided to focus solely on the plastic line, leading to the departure of his brothers Gerhardt and Karl Georg, who went on to establish their own toy company.
LEGO Conquered The World One Plastic Brick at a Time
In 1961, LEGO made a strategic move to expand its sales to North America. To achieve this, they formed an agreement with Samsonite, allowing the company to produce and sell LEGO products in the United States and Canada.
The introduction of LEGO wheels in 1961 and 1962 opened up a new world of possibilities for building vehicles. The company also recognized the importance of catering to younger children and introduced the Duplo line in 1969. Duplo bricks, larger and safer for little hands, seamlessly integrated with regular LEGO bricks, ensuring a smooth transition as children grew older.
In 1968, LEGO opened the first LEGOLAND theme park in Billund. Featuring intricately designed miniature towns built entirely from LEGO bricks, the park became an instant hit and solidified LEGO’s position as a beloved brand and a leader in the toy industry.
And this was not the end as human figures with posable arms made an appearance in 1974 in “Lego family” sets, which became the biggest sellers at the time. The following year, an early version of the “minifigure” miniature Lego person was introduced, although it was not posable and had no face printed on its head.
The famous small Lego characters featuring posable arms and legs, along with a single head sporting a friendly smile, made their first appearances in 1978. They would quickly go to space, travel to Medieval times, and embarks on new adventures with even more popular sets.
Today, LEGO remains a family-owned company as Ole Kirk’s great-grandson Thomas became the chairman of the LEGO Group in 2020.
On a semi-related topic, I also wrote on the creation of Christmas, the best time of the year to put your foot on a LEGO brick! Also, I wrote about other children’s games like the Slinky and Etch A Sketch!