ESTEEM Center for Equity in Science, Technology, Engineering, English & Math



The history of LEGO

Learn about the winding history of the lego


When you picture Lego, you probably think about the massive toy franchise, right? Well, believe it or not, Lego started as a small woodworking shop in Denmark. The shop faced many challenges before it became the company that we all know and love.

The history of Lego starts with a Dutchman, Ole Kirk Christiansen. He created a woodworking shop in the town of Billund. The business started out making furniture and ladders until Christiansen discovered the art of making toys.When Christiansen decided he wanted to make toys too, disaster struck. His workshop burned down, along with his home. Many would have quit, but Christiansen decided to rebuild his workshop and continue woodworking. But with the crash of the stock market, and his wife dead, Christiansen struggled to keep his business afloat. He decided to make cheap toys that might sell. Even though it did not immediately work, his strategy did work, saving Christiansen and his shop. Christiansen decided to rename his company Lego, a combination of two words, leg godt, which means play well.

As the Nazis stormed into Denmark, Christiansen’s workshop burned down again. As World War Two ended, everybody was facing an economic crisis. Christiansen decided to purchase a plastic mold machine. Just like another British company, Kiddicraft, Christiansen used the machine to create interlocking bricks. Christiansen died in 1958, so his son took over the family business. Before this, the bricks changed over time, so a brick made in 1955 could not fit with a brick made in 1949. So Christiansen’s son, Godtfred Kirk Christiansen, changed that, so all bricks could fit each other after 1955. This process is still seen today, as old, vintage sets can fit new sets. Soon after Lego faced another fire. It burned down the entire woodworking shop, leaving Godtfred with a decision that would change the fate of Lego. Godtfred decided to switch to only making Lego bricks. In the next few years, Lego would undergo some major changes.

Around this time a revolutionary new item was introduced to Lego: the wheel. This lets children create cars anda model of a city with a bridge over a river trucks, further expanding the things you can create. As Lego gained popularity across the globe, an issue arose. So many people wanted tours of the factory, that the workers started to get crowded. So, Godtfred came up with a new idea. A Lego theme park. Legoland was launched in 1968 and was an immediate success. In the first year, over 600,000 people went to the park, which was more than two times what Godtfred hoped. minifigure head lotThe park started as three acres of Lego displays, reaching up to twenty-four acres. In 1974, Lego had an ingenious idea, which eventually became one of their mascots: the minifigure. This Lego person could have a variety of faces and bodies and is one of the major flagships of the company. Over the next few years, Lego continued to create many different series. Many include Lego Town (later renamed to Lego City), Lego Pirate, and Duplo. Duplo was a larger version of Lego, meant for toddlers. To this day, Lego is still seeing success, as Lego is approaching its 100th anniversary. Despite its small origins, Lego managed to dominate its industry and isn’t showing signs of stopping anytime soon.



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