Little Bits of History

January 28

Posted in History by patriciahysell on January 28, 2017

1958: At 1.58 PM, Ole Kirk Christiansen receives a patent. Christiansen was the tenth son of an impoverished Danish family and born in 1891. He was trained as a carpenter and began making wooden toys in 1932, after losing his job due to the Great Depression. His wife died soon after and left him to raise his four sons alone. He began a line of wooden ducks and opened a small factory to make them. It burned in 1942 and he was forced to rebuild. He then began making miniature houses and furniture like what he had made when fully employed. His product line expanded and by 1949 he produced over 200 plastic and wooden toys. His third son, Godtfred, joined the business and became a Junior Vice President on his 30th birthday in 1950.

When the company first opened, it needed a name and there was a contest to decide what it would become. Two names under consideration were “Legio” with a reference to a legion of toys and “Lego” a contraction of the Danish “leg godt” which means “play well”. It was later learned the word in Latin meant “I put together” or “I assemble”. Lego, of course, won. The first sets of self-locking bricks did not work well. While they were better for building than traditional stacking wooden blocks, they lacked the versatility for which they are known today. The plastics available in Denmark after World War II were not of the same quality as that which can be produced today and customers preferred traditional wood or metal toys. A new idea was hatched and a hollow tube was added to the underside of the bricks which solved two major problems.

In 1964, the plastic used was changed to ABS. It is more stable and non-toxic and still in use today. In 1964, instruction manuals were added to packages of Lego blocks and soon more sets were sold with the blocks to build amazing creations and the pictures to help even small children build them. In the 1970s, the product line expanded and started to offer products to girls such as houses with furniture. A greater array of masterpieces could be built using hundreds of blocks. Minifigures were added as were the movie based lines of products. There have been Lego movies, games, and competitions. There are six Legoland amusement parks created as well.

Godtfred took over the management of the company after his father’s death in 1958. His own son, Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen (no explanation for spelling change), took over as president and CEO when his father retired. He ran the company until his retirement in 2004 and remains the richest Dane with a net worth of nearly $10 billion. Today, Jørgen Vig Knudstorp is the CEO and the first non-family member to hold that position. After a downturn in business from which the company was able to rebound, they have sold over 600 billion Lego parts. In February 1915, Lego replaced Ferrari as Brand Finance’s “world’s most powerful brand”.

If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door. – Milton Berle

We build too many walls and not enough bridges. – Isaac Newton

You can design and create, and build the most wonderful place in the world. But it takes people to make the dream a reality. – Walt Disney

You can’t build a great building on a weak foundation. You must have a solid foundation if you’re going to have a strong superstructure. – Gordon B. Hinckley

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: