Classic Toys: Lincoln Logs
The History of Lincoln Logs Building Sets
John Lloyd Wright of Illinois introduced Lincoln Logs to the marketplace in the mid-1920s. His inspiration for the new toy had come from witnessing the construction of the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo. The hotel was constructed to be earthquake-proof and used interlocking timbers for the foundation. It had been designed by John’s father, the famous architect, Frank Lloyd Wright.
Having grown up playing with wooden blocks himself, his 1916 trip to Tokyo inspired Wright to create a toy made up of wooden interlocking beams. He applied for a patent for his new toy on August 31, 1920 and made it available to the public in 1924. The toy, made by the Red Square Company of Chicago, Illinois, was an instant hit. Wright cleverly named them after one of America’s most famous presidents to promote purchasing America-made products and to invoke the spirit of the early pioneers. Shortly thereafter, Wright changed the name of his company to the John Lloyd Wright Toy Company.
The interlocking logs were originally made of redwood and came with instructions for building Uncle Tom’s Cabin and the cabin in which Abe Lincoln was born. They were hugely popular with children and adults appreciated the toys since playing with them helped children develop concentration and hand-eye coordination.
Production of Lincoln Logs remained strong through the duration of WWII, during which the production of metal toys was halted. Lincoln Logs reached their height of popularity with boys and girls in the 1950s when the pioneer life and Davy Crockett were all the rage.
Lincoln Logs were one of the first toys to be advertised on television and was marketed as an educational toy. The first slogan associated with them was, “Interesting playthings typify the spirit of America”.
Playskool bought the toy company in 1943. In 1968 the rights to Lincoln Logs was purchased by the Milton Bradley Company, and then in 1984 to the Hasbro Toy Company. Hasbro in turn licensed the manufacture of Lincoln Logs to K’NEX in 1991.
During the 1970s the logs were being made of plastic, but in recent years production reverted back to wood and Lincoln Logs are enjoying a resurgence in popularity.