Counting down to 90 Years of Play, Part 1: 1932-1941

In a little over a week, the LEGO Group will celebrate its 90th anniversary: 9 decades since a danish carpenter decided to turn his hand to building toys. The legacy of this decision is now well known, and as we move closer to this date, I would like to present some images sent through from the LEGO Group, covering the people, and some of the products seen over the years.

The move to wooden toy manufacture was prompted in part by the economic crisis seen in the 1930s , and Old Kirk Christiansen starts building smaller wooden objects – including wooden toys.

These toys included yo-yos, as well as the horse and wagon seen here. As the fad for yo-yos dropped off, excess stock was repurposed for the purpose of wheels on new toys such as the fire engine.

In 1935, the company name LEGO is adopted. Ole sought suggestions for the company name from his employees, but ultimately chose one of his own. The name is derived from the Danish words LEgt GOdt – Play Well. The first company logo appeared in 1936.

The sub title reads ”Factory for Wooden Products and Toys”

The wooden duck made its debut around 1936 (it may have been sooner, but the company pricelists of those years have been lost), and became iconic in company lore when Ole’s son Godtfred said he had found a way to save his father money – by having the duck painted with only 2 rather than 3 coats of lacquer. On hearing this, it is said that Ole had his son go out and retrieve the stock, which had already been delivered, and add the third layer of lacquer himself.

It is from this time that the notion of ’Only the best is good enough’ – as the approximate English translation goes – enters the company consciousness.

A variety of wooden animals and birds appeared over the years

As did further vehicles, all wooden.

By the end of the decade, Ole Kirk Kristiansen has employed 10 workers in his Billund Workshop. This workshop was colocated with the family home, which continues to this day as the LEGO Ideas House.

Over the years Ole’s son Godtfred became more heavily involved in the company, but perhaps that will be more of a topic over the coming days.

Godfred Christiansen c.1939-40. Image: the LEGO Group

I hope you have enjoyed this brief trip through the 1930s. Join us tomorrow, as we continue our countdown to 90 years of play.

Until then,

Play Well.

While you are here, there is still time to join the 90 years of play classic themes challenge on Instagram, hosted by myself and Jen from @brickfambuilds. You can find further details here

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