LEGO building bricks (in their original packaging)

Denmark, 1960s
Plastic, cardboard, sheet metal
H 36.6 cm, dia. 9.7 cm
Inv. 2008.51.

When the master carpenter Ole Kirk Christiansen started a business for the manufacture of wooden toys in the 1930s, he decided to call it LEGO, which is short for “leg godt” or “play well” in Danish. The foundations of his future empire were not laid until 1949, however, when Christiansen pioneered an inch-long plastic brick with two rows of four studs – the first-ever LEGO building brick. As the original bricks were hollow, the constructions made out of them were not very stable. This problem was solved by adding small tubes to the undersides of the bricks so that when two bricks were clipped together, the tubes of the one engaged firmly with the studs of the other. The system was patented on 28 January 1958, the date now regarded as the birth date of the LEGO system.

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