Who Created the Lego Company?

Who Created the Lego Company?

Ole Kirk Christiansen, a Danish carpenter, bought a woodworking shop in 1916.

LEGO bricks
LEGO bricks (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Because of the Great Depression, the call for furniture and large projects dwindled in the 1930s. He turned to making wooden toys in 1932. In 1934, he named the company he had created Lego, a contraction of the Danish words for “play well.” They started making plastic toys in 1947, and in 1949, interlocking plastic bricks.

When I was little, we had white American Plastic Bricks to build with. They fit together precisely, but only stayed together because of gravity. If your little brother knocked over one of the walls, all the bricks fell apart. They had green struts to make roofs. First made out of wood, then plastic, they were patented in 1941. Their only connection to Lego is that the company agreed to be an American distributor for Legos. The Halsam Company that made American Plastic Bricks was sold to Playskool, which was bought by Milton-Bradley, and eventually Hasbro. American Plastic Bricks were discontinued in 1977.

By contrast, Legos continue to thrive. On June 7, 1968, the first Legoland park opened in Denmark. My first son was born 2 months later. Recently my 7-year-old granddaughter asked for someone to hand her a bushing when she was playing with Legos near their home. She was building Lego machines.

Last Christmas, my grandson asked for a Lego set for from our local Lego retail store, one of 46. The store has bins for different color bricks so you can buy them loose. Power Functions work with Legos and include components like motors, lights, switches and the bushings my granddaughter was playing with. Duplo bricks, large, easy to handle bricks for younger children, are twice the dimensions of Legos.

The company has six theme parks, and a number of video games, mini-movies and comic books. The largest Lego set has 5,922 pieces, to make the Taj Mahal. The company estimates they have made 400 million Lego blocks. In 2006, they were making 306 million miniature rubber tires a year. In 2011, Legos went to space so astronauts could run experiments in microgravity in the Lego Bricks In Space program. In 2012, engineers estimated it would take a tower of Lego bricks 11,781 feet tall to crush the bottom brick in the tower. Lego Mindstorm bricks are programmable through a USB port and include sensors to detect touch, light and sound and an RFID reader.

How Do Lego Bricks Work?

Each Lego part has studs that fit inside or between the tubes of other Lego parts they fit into. The tubes bend slightly with the pressure of the stud being inserted. This gentle shape change, combined with the slight friction of the plastic on plastic, is what holds the two pieces together. There is no fastener, no magnetism, just precision manufacturing that allows the pieces to slide together and stay there until pried apart. Lego constructions are now accepted in the Junior Home Arts competition at our Prince William County, Virginia Fair.

The plastic bricks you buy today still interlock with the bricks patented on January 28, 1958 with studs and hollow tubes for lateral stability.


Carol Covin, Granny-Guru

Author, “Who Gets to Name Grandma? The Wisdom of Mothers and Grandmothers”


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