Perhaps the most foremost and beloved building blocks of all times, Lego is known the world over for their constructive and colorful bricks that can build most anything – from an airplane to an x-wing fighter, from an airport to a pirate ship to just about anything you can dream of. Today, we take a look at the history of the Lego company and their legacy of toys, video games and theme parks.

If great things come in small packages, nothing greater ever came from anything smaller. The year was 1932. The place was the unremarkable village of Billund, Denmark. The person was Ole Kirk Christiansen, an impoverished carpenter and joiner. Chritiansen toiled in obscurity, eking out a living thanks to his hatchling carpentry company that specialized in stepladders, ironing boards, and ironically, wooden toys. In 1934, working with his son Godtfred, Ole named his company “Lego,” a name homogenized from the Danish words “Leg Godt,” or “Play Well.”

Lego continued to make wooden toys for several years, and after World War II, began experimenting with plastic. By 1949, two hundred different toys came from the Lego company, including their brand new “Automatic Binding Bricks.” Built with a special cellulose acetate, the bricks were designed to lock with each other and easily pull apart. But concerns from toy manufacturers over the uncertain future of plastic (it was thought nothing would ever replace wood) made it a difficult sell. After struggling with a way to make them stick together and come apart easily, the first sets finally hit the Danish market in 1955, selling as a part of the “Lego Systems of Play.”

While on a business trip, Godtfred began to realize the potential of the Automatic Binding Bricks. The locking Lego System known and loved today finally received its patent in 1958. With a sturdier, lighter design, Legos quickly took off. Various model designs were introduced, making it possible to not only construct buildings, but also cars and trains.

The Lego sensation exploded in 1974 with the introduction of Lego people. Suddenly, everything from ancient history to the distant future came alive. One could build medieval castles, buccaneering pirate ships, rooting-tooting western ranches, cavalry outposts, metropolitan cities, and futuristic space stations. The different characters brought each location to life, as police officers, athletes, pilots, astronauts, cowboys, pirates, soldiers, and virtually ever kind of vocation went about their business in the Lego world

In 1961, Legos finally came to the United States and outdid their European success. Ole’s grandson Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen runs the family-operated company today. The expansive Lego line runs the age gamut from Duplo preschool toys (since 1967) to Lego Technic sets. For the ambitious, the Lego Mindstorms allow one to build working robots.

Lego theme parks welcome visitors year round in Denmark, England, and San Diego, California. Lego has also made a considerable presence the video game world with an assortment of adventurous games, some based on films such as Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark. All told, over three hundred million children are estimated to have owned Lego sets at some time, making it one of the most popular toys ever created.

We know we have plenty of Lego fans on Retroland. Chime in with your memories in our comments section. When did you get your first Lego set? Was it a simple assortment of colored bricks or one of the more elaborate playsets? We’d love to hear all about it as we tip our hats to this iconic toy.

One Response to “Lego”

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  1. Gina says:

    They just built a new Lego theme park in central Florida where Cypress Gardens used to be. I haven’t been yet because the radio ad said it was for kids. I don’t mind going on the kiddie rides at Disney & Universal, but somehow the radio ad got me hung up that I can’t go alone as I’m used to going to theme parks, I have to borrow a kid and then go.
    Downtown Disney has a Lego store, and some fantastic giant statues made of Legos. These include a sea serpent and scenes from Disney films, like Toy Story.

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