How Lego conquered the world

Lego launched its first stones 80 years ago – back then without pimples. It was not until the 1950s that the inventor came up with the decisive idea. Today, every person in the world has an average of 80 Lego bricks.

Once again, 18 Lego bricks have become more: in 2007, on the 75th anniversary of the Danish toy manufacturer, each person had an average of 62 Lego bricks. Now, on the 80th anniversary this coming Friday, there are already 80 Lego bricks. Mind you, statistically enough, every human being of all ages around the world has so many Lego bricks – the little colorful plastic cuboids are no longer just a breeze, but are also being rediscovered by adults.

The story of the world’s third-largest toy manufacturer in terms of turnover today is the story of a simple carpenter who did not allow himself to be distracted by the adversities of life. Ole Kirk Christiansen was born in 1891 in the then poor region of Jutland. In 1916 he became self-employed as a carpenter and joiner. In 1924 his first workshop and his house burned down after two of his four sons had played with fire.

In the beginning, the stones were made of wood

Christiansen built up a new workshop eight years later and founded his ironing boards, chairs and wooden toys on August 10, 1932 in Billund. The circumstances for the birth of the company could not have been less favorable: Just over a month later died Christiansen’s wife, on top of that broke the global economic crisis. But the carpenter was tough. He brought his twelve-year-old son Godtfred Kirk into the company. Two years later, he invented today’s name. It is a short form of Leg godt, which translates as play well.

The old Christiansen laid the basis of the company, his young son was the gifted inventor for the further development. In 1935, Lego developed the first construction toy, soon the family motto “Only the best is good enough” hung on a wooden sign in the workshop. The breakthrough came the family with the departure of the previous material wood. Immediately after the end of the Second World War, Lego became the first company in Denmark to start a plastic injection molding machine and began experimenting with the material.

Among the first inventions made possible by the machine were the so-called “automatically connecting stones”, a forerunner of today’s Lego bricks. They had four and eight pimples and were offered only in Denmark. In 1954 Godtfred Kirk got to know a buyer during a voyage to the UK, who thought that there was a lack of toys in the system. It became a groundbreaking conversation: the now fully integrated into the corporate management Junior developed the idea for the Lego system.

In 1955 there were 28 different kits in the Lego system. When Christiansen presented this at the Nuremberg Toy Fair, however, there was a devastating echo. For the German market Lego is completely unsuitable. Nevertheless, Lego was fully on expansion course and founded in 1956 his first foreign branch in Hohenwestedt in Schleswig-Holstein.

In 1958 came the pimples

Technically, the year 1958 was the decisive one: Because so far, the Ur-Lego bricks held only moderately together. But this year, Lego patented the evolution of the stones, which have since except nubs on the top also tubes in the bottom and hold together stably.

Although the patent has long since expired and there have long been imitation products – such as in the GDR the Pebe bricks – Lego has practically an undisputed unique position. The short crisis phase of 2003 and 2004 has long since been overcome. In the meantime, the turnover of the Lego, which was chosen as a toy of the 20th century a few years ago, is increasing each year.

The stones produced in 2011 alone could be stacked around the earth 16 times. With 300 million wheels a year, the family-owned company continues to be the world’s largest tire manufacturer in the Guinness Book of Records. And for a few years, there are in addition to their own educational programs for schools and kits especially for adults.