Toyland Treasures: Lincoln Logs

Lincoln Logs

This miniature construction set for building an endless array of frontier-style structures was invented by John Lloyd Wright, the son of celebrated architect Frank Lloyd Wright. The idea actually had a not-so-down-home-American origin: during 1916–1917, the younger Wright was assisting his father on one his most famous projects, the construction the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, Japan. The hotel’s foundation featured interlocking wooden beams as part of its earthquake-proof design. John realized that a scaled-down version of the same concept could be used for an innovative twist on the traditional wooden building blocks that had long been a favorite children’s toy. Upon returning to the U.S., Wright started marketing the idea in 1918, received a patent in 1920, and had the Lincoln Logs name registered in 1923. (Though there are competing theories regarding the origin and intent of the chosen name, the most obvious explanation is that it is an evocation of our 16th President Abraham Lincoln’s frontier associations – and the catchy alliteration has additional marketing benefits.)

The idea was an almost instant success, and the toy’s popularity continued to grow over the intervening century, despite changes in ownership and manufacture. Wright eventually sold his patent, and the rights to the name and concept have changed hands numerous times. Manufacturing was based in Chicago for a couple of decades at mid-century, but has since been moved to China, and back to the U.S. again. At one point plastic logs were offered in place of wooden ones, but those proved rather unpopular, so real wood is in again! Vintage sets in good condition from various decades past can fetch a handsome price from collectors.

Be sure to check out more of our favorite Toyland Treasures!

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