When I was a child I was told a story by either my dad or my uncle (I can’t remember) about how LEGO bricks were invented; one fine and lovely day the founder of the LEGO Company was taking a walk. It was after some rain had fallen, so the path was somewhat muddy. He noticed how his boots got stuck in the mud and created a bond. As he lifted his foot, the boot separated from the mud, but left a strong impression with the pattern of the outsole. The founder had an epiphany about replicating this sticking and un-sticking action in construction toys, and thus interlocking LEGO bricks with studs and tubes were born… 🙂
I don’t know if this story was made up by my dad or uncle, or is this something the LEGO company circulated themselves in those days, but for me as a kid it made perfect sense. I accepted it fully as a wonderful idea from a brilliant mind. However as young people growing up often discover, not all stories they have heard as children are as simple, beautiful and heroic as they have been told. There are brilliant inventors and heroes in the real world for sure, but their work often involves a lot of struggle, doubt, trial, error, and even controversy – something childhood versions of their stories tend to simplify and gloss over.
As far as LEGO’s history, fans are often curious about how the company started. You can read the official company version in regards to what happened – which is more like the childhood story I was told. But thanks to the invention of the internet, you can also hear from people who share their own discoveries, research, experiences and memories. And you can see samples of the earliest versions of interlocking toy bricks – carefully kept and preserved by collectors – not all of them LEGO brand. That’s right, LEGO was not the first to make interlocking building bricks, not even the second or third. But they were perhaps better than others at recognizing and utilizing its potential.
In the video below JANGBRiCKS shares some of his own recent research into LEGO’s history, and particularly the history of the basic interlocking building bricks. He was also able to get some really excellent samples of early toys similar to LEGO, as well as various marketing materials. I think it’s quite fascinating, so I thought to share it with you.
Below is a summary of names and dates mentioned in the video for your reference. A nice quote from the early American Bricks product catalog by Halsam Products shown towards the end of the video: “It’s more fun to create a new model than it is to copy.”
- Build-O-Brik by Rubber Specialties Company (rubber) – 1934
- MiniBrix by Premo Rubber Company (rubber) – 1935
- Bri-Plax Interlocking Building Cubes by Kiddicraft (plastic) – 1939
- American Bricks by Halsam Products (compressed wood fiber) – 1939
- American Bricks by Halsam Products (plastic) – 1946
- Self Locking Building Bricks by Kiddicraft (regular LEGO size) – 1947
- LEGO Automatic Binding Brick – 1949
- Self Locking Building Bricks by Kiddicraft (DUPLO size) – 1953
- LEGO bricks with tubes – 1958
- LEGO DUPLO bricks – 1969
- Mega Bloks building blocks by Ritvik Toys (now Mattel) – 1991
- Kre-O building blocks by Hasbro – 2011
As you can see, the history of interlocking building bricks is quite complex, traveling on twisty roads between companies, countries and even continents. What do you think? How did you like the video? Did you know about all the other brands that made interlocking construction toys long before LEGO? Feel free to share your thoughts and discuss in the comment section below! 😉
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I had red plastic American Bricks as a child in the early 50s. For years I wondered if they were early Legos but one day I saw them offered for sale on Ebay and recognized the subtle striated “brick” surface that distinguished them from smooth Legos.
You did? That’s amazing! You owned some serious history! 😀
They were also a great toy. But the difference in sophistication and potential between then and now is astronomical! Still, I think that’s when my love for building and my complete conviction that it has no business being determined by gender were born. ; >
There has been a lot of advancement with plastics since those early bricks. And yes, men, women, children, and even animals and birds can build! Cats especially like LEGO bricks. 😉
A few months ago I was going through the box of Legos my Mom had insisted be removed from her house and noticed some odd pieces in among the many. These clearly say Lego yet they lacked the familiar pattern on the backs of the pieces. The were thin bricks and the “holes” on the bottom were actually squares. I meant to take some pictures to send in but haven’t been able to do that yet. If I were to hazard a guess these have to be from the early 60’s.
Michael, that sounds like a fantastic find! I would keep them. Collectors love those type of pieces, and you could likely sell them for a good price, or just keep them for yourself as LEGO memorabilia. 🙂