Lincoln Logs

One of the most enduring and endearing building toys to ever hit the market, Lincoln Logs have delighted kids for decades, thanks to their simplicity and the ability to create wooden structures both rustic and sturdy. What you may not know, however, is the fascinating story behind this beloved toy that has charmed children ever since its debut nearly a century ago.

The iconic twentieth century toy ironically enough finds its roots in the family of the same century’s most famous architect. In 1916, Frank Lloyd Wright (born Frank Lincoln Wright) was in Japan to further endeavors on the Imperial Hotel basement in the company of his son John. While watching the crew, John noticed that they locked several large timbers to each other with a method called “floating cantilever construction,” a process designed to help the structure resist the effects of earthquakes. While Frank’s mind toiled with the project at hand, John’s mind shrank the process down to child-sized proportions. What he ended up with was the idea for a children’s toy that would enable kids to build various structures by means of a similar system of interlocking joints.

The finished product was marketed two years later by John Lloyd Wright Inc., of Chicago and the Red Square Toy Company. A number of miniature treated logs cut into various lengths with notched ends to fit them together. Wright also added simple touches such as beams with staggered notches that allowed one to lay down a sloping slat roof and chimney. The original instruction set introduced young tykes to the set with Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Abraham Lincoln’s childhood cabin. The popular consensus is that because of its resemblance to the latter, and out of respect, the toys were named Lincoln Logs after America’s beloved sixteenth president.

Lincoln Logs immediately grew in popularity after their official headway into the public arena in 1924. Soon, enterprising children were building all sorts of complicated structures out of interlocking wooden beams. With the passing decades, Lincoln Logs have evolved surprisingly little, incorporating such simple innovations as square logs, bricks, and wheels. People and animals eventually joined the Lincoln Log family, making it possible to create everything from a historical reenactment to a modern day dude ranch. But despite the adherence to a very simple premise, worldwide sales of Lincoln Logs have exceeded one hundred million sets. In 1999, Hasbro entered into a licensing agreement with K’Nex Industries, Inc., giving them the onus of selling Lincoln Logs.

Irony is no stranger even to toys. While Frank Lloyd Wright’s work continues to impress and inspire, few people can name any of it. And while his son is virtually unknown, there are but few people who have never heard of – let alone played with – his invention.

If you spent a few hours in childhood, creating rustic environments with a set of Lincoln Logs, we’d love to hear your recollections in our comments section, as we tip our hats to this beloved building toy that continues to charm all these years later.

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