Anniversary Alert: 50 Years of LEGO® DUPLO® Bricks

We love a good anniversary celebration here at the Rambling Brick, and recently, we have had plenty! Last year we saw 60 years of the Brick, 40 years of the Minifigure, 30 years of the Helicopter Transporter and 20 years of Mindstorms. This year we celebrate 40 years of Fabuland, 30 years of LEGO® Pirates and 20 years of LEGO Star Wars. And one more thing.

Today we celebrate the Fiftieth Anniversary of the first announcement of LEGO DUPLO®. The year of the Moon Landing, Woodstock and the airing of the first episode of Scooby Doo was also the the year that the LEGO Group first released the DUPLO Brick.

Aimed primarily at Toddlers, DUPLO Bricks have been the introduction to the LEGO system of play for millions of families over the last 50 years.

Not the first Big Brick, but possibly the most interesting

Now, this was not the first big brick that was released by LEGO Systems, as it was then: the original jumbo bricks had similar dimensions as our DUPLO bricks, BUT did not have the holes in the studs. These PreSchool sets, with Jumbo Bricks – 502 and 503 – were released in 1968, at which stage the patent application for the Duplo Brick had been submitted, and the initial design of the bricks tested in the Swedish Market.

Quatro, Duplo and System Bricks

As you can read in the press release below, the holes were introduced, and included in the patent for the DUPLO Brick after the idea came to Godtfred Kirk Christiansen in his sleep. Whether this is entirely true or not is immaterial. The effect was to allow the integration of regular system bricks, especially the 2xn bricks, with Duplo Bricks.

As we have previously discussed, Duplo bricks are twice the size of the equivalent system brick, in every dimension. As such, they occupy eight times the volume. The short lived Quatro brick was experimented with in the mid 2000’s – it was twice as large as the Duplo Brick.

The Patents:

The initial patent for the DUPLO Brick was submitted on 29th November, 1967, with other European, American and Japanese patents following soon afterwards.

Of interest to some will be the algebraic description of the radius of the hole in the stud, relative to the stud itself, potentially lining things up for Quatro and similarly scaled systems in the future. – here you can see it detailed within the American patent document. The international patents are provided in their entirety at the end of this post.

Danish text reads: “New, large blocks for the tiniest”

The First Duplo sets to be released in 1969 – using the tag ‘Big Bricks for Small Hands’, 510 and 511, were simple sets, with just a few bricks in primary colours :

Before long, we started to get additional elements: arches and trolley bases, to add some extraordinary shapes, and movement .

As one born in 1969, I remember DUPLO being a significant part of my early childhood, and being envious of my friends who had the trolley bases or arches. If only 10861 ‘My First Emotions’ had been available back then!

Over the next few weeks, I will chip away at some of the media assets that I have just received from the Adult Engagement Team at the LEGO Group. A veritable treasure trove of historical information, to say nothing of the great examples of historical product photography.

Until next time,

Play Well.

Press release from LEGO:

BILLUND, January 29, 2019: Today we mark 50 years since the LEGO Group unveiled its inaugural large brick for small hands (yes that would be 1969) – the same year the first person set foot on the moon. You can decide which was the bigger moment for mankind (although could Apollo 11 be dismantled and rebuilt into a racing car?) but, either way, below are some highlights from half a century of big building fun. 

Ludamus! A Latin origin
Did you know the name DUPLO® derives from the Latin word ‘duplex’ meaning double? The name first featured on two LEGO® DUPLO sets launched in 1969 – set no. 510 and no. 511 if you like specifics.

And did you know that LEGO DUPLO bricks are twice the size of classic LEGO bricks on all dimensions? This is so all our bricks fit into the LEGO System in Play, but finding this 2:1 scale solution was no easy task. We tried both 4:1 and 3:1 scale before Godtfred Kirk Christiansen – second generation LEGO Group owner – in 1968 came up with the idea (during his sleep!) to hollow the studs on LEGO DUPLO bricks. This meant they could be combined with classic LEGO bricks, and thereby formed the basis for safe and more age-appropriate LEGO building experiences for the youngest children.

The building blocks of life
The urge to play is nature’s way of helping us make sense of the world. Through play we come to know what it means to belong, to be loved, and feel happiness. From birth to the age of four, children undergo intense neurological transformation. The most rapid period of learning and development a human being will ever experience takes place in those four years and by the end, a ‘blueprint’ has been drawn for the adults they will become.

That’s why all LEGO® DUPLO® products are carefully designed to inspire and help toddlers unlock their full potential through creative, playful experiences that will further shape their future. Don’t just take our word for it. We asked over 9,000 parents around the world how they feel about the LEGO System in Play in the LEGO Play Well Report, 2018; 94% say it stimulates their child’s imagination, 93% say it helps their child be creative, 91% say it helps their child learn and discover new things, and 84% say it helps their child develop life skills. Oh, and 91% also say it is a fun activity for the whole family!  

A rabbit…and some friends
First conceived in the late 1970s when Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen – third generation LEGO Group owner – decided to focus on LEGO DUPLO as a separate brand, the red LEGO® DUPLO® rabbit logo has taken pride of place on our product packaging ever since. Of course, it’s had a few makeovers during the years like any famous icon but, still, today the rabbit remains the symbol of the brand. 

It has also since been joined by a host of other DUPLO animals – from horses, sheep and cows to elephants, lions and even dinosaurs. Not to mention the many different DUPLO figures that have launched over the years – farmers and policemen, doctors, cowboys, scientists, cheeky kids and hipster parents – there’s something to inspire every little builder’s imagination and help facilitate storytelling and role-play.

Product quality and safety
Our biggest inspiration and reason for being, children, are also our biggest concern. So, we are relentless in making sure children can play safely and enjoy our products – indeed, it’s the most important thing for us. That’s why all our products meet or exceed the most stringent toy safety regulations globally.
Across our physical and digital play experiences we work from a safety-by-design approach, and age grade to ensure children have a fun time while being challenged at their appropriate level. Putting our products in the hands of the world’s most creative geniuses means they must withstand several experiences, and big feelings. From being bitten, dribbled on, thrown across the room in a tantrum, stepped on, or pulled in by determined young explorers. So, we have to be equally creative when it comes to testing our products – testing for how they’re meant to be used… and for how they’re most definitely not meant to be used!
Before you ask what these tests look like, why not let the experts give a sneak-peak here?

The next 50 years and beyond
If LEGO® DUPLO® was a person, it would probably be eyeing up those last few years of work and imagining a life of relaxation and retirement. But not a bit of it. 

As play patterns become ever more fluid, products like the new DUPLO Steam and Cargo trains are helping toddlers move seamlessly between physical and digital play like never before, introducing little builders to early coding, colour recognition and accompanying apps full of fun activities – ALL with the key aim to encourage and enhance the physical play experience. 
The brick is, and will always remain, our key contribution trough which we hope to inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow. And who knows how many new space explorers will be hatched from the LEGO DUPLO play world? 

Appendix: Patent Documents



West Germany






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