Toyland Treasures: Tinker Toys

A humanoid form made from Tinker Toys.

After observing children playing with miscellaneous household objects – sticks, pencils, empty spools of thread, and so on – Charles H. Pajeau, a stonemason by trade, was inspired to create a toy set featuring a collection of various standardized wooden parts that could be fitted together in virtually endless ways to create objects both whimsical and practical. After Pajeau partnered with Robert Pettit and Gordon Tinker, production began at an Evanston, Illinois plant, and the first Tinker Toy sets went on the market around 1914. Creative store owners gave the product a boost by creating elaborate storefront displays that included Tinker Toy ferris wheels and other mesmerizing attractions.

Later on, some versions of the set included an electric motor, which opened up a whole new range of possibilities for the budding engineers of the day. The bright colors that became a distinctive feature were not added until the 1950s. Hasbro is the brand’s current owner, and is still cranking out both the updated plastic and classic wooden versions of the set. Perhaps most impressive out of a number of very ambitious applications, in the late 1970s a couple of inventors used over 10,000 Tinker Toy parts to construct a mechanical computer that plays humans in a game of tic-tac-toe – and never loses!

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

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