Ole Kirk Christiansen and the History of LEGO

children playing with legos
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Hailed as the “Toy of the Century,” the plastic Lego bricks that make up the Lego System of Play were invented by Ole Kirk Christiansen, a master carpenter, and his son, Godtfred Kirk. From these small interlocking bricks, which can be connected to assemble an infinite number of designs, Lego has evolved into a huge worldwide enterprise that makes toys and movies and runs theme parks.

But before all that, Lego began as a carpentry business in the village of Billund, Denmark in 1932. Although he initially made stepladders and ironing boards, wooden toys became Christiansen’s most successful product.

The company adopted the name LEGO in 1934. LEGO is formed from the Danish words "LEg GOdt" meaning "play well." Fittingly enough, the company later learned that in Latin, "lego" means "I put together."

In 1947, the LEGO company was the first in Denmark to use a plastic injection molding machine for making toys. This allowed the company to manufacture Automatic Binding Bricks, created in 1949. These larger bricks, sold only in Denmark, deployed the stud-and-tube coupling system that was the forerunner of the Lego bricks the world has come to know. 

Five years later, in 1954, the redesigned components were renamed "LEGO Mursten" or "LEGO Bricks" and the word LEGO was officially registered as a trademark in Denmark, positioning the company to launch the "LEGO System of Play" with 28 sets and 8 vehicles.

The current LEGO stud-and-tube coupling system was patented in 1958 (Design Patent #92683). The new coupling principle made models much more stable.

Today Lego is one of the biggest and most profitable toy companies in the world, with little sign of slowing down. And the LEGO brand has gone well beyond plastic toys: dozens of video games based on LEGO have been released, and in 2014 debuted to critical acclaim.

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Bellis, Mary. "Ole Kirk Christiansen and the History of LEGO." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, thoughtco.com/ole-kirk-christiansen-lego-1991644. Bellis, Mary. (2023, April 5). Ole Kirk Christiansen and the History of LEGO. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/ole-kirk-christiansen-lego-1991644 Bellis, Mary. "Ole Kirk Christiansen and the History of LEGO." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/ole-kirk-christiansen-lego-1991644 (accessed June 10, 2023).