Construction toys mirror society

Erector and Meccano sets were introduced when engineering was in full flower. The Brooklyn Bridge (1883) and Scotland's Forth Bridge (1890) were the first of many bridges designed and built in the space of a few decades throughout America and Britain.

Eiffel built his tower and Ferris his wheel, the automobile proliferated, and the Wright brothers made their flight at Kittyhawk - all within the 15 years beginning in 1889.

Into this flurry of engineering activity, Erector sets were introduced in 1913 - the year that the steel-framed Woolworth Building went up in New York City and the Panama Canal neared completion in Central America.

Youngsters could build models of all of these structures with Meccano and Erector sets. A. C. Gilbert proclaimed in his advertising, "…being an engineer is the most exciting thing in the world. And that's just what you are when you have one of my new Erectors."

Budding architects had their chance to experiment, too, with Lincoln Logs. They were designed and developed in 1916 by John Lloyd Wright, son of famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright. The story goes that John was traveling with his father in Tokyo and was inspired by construction techniques used in building the earthquake-proof foundation of the Imperial Hotel.

As innovations were introduced into society, construction toys enabled youngsters to create their own versions of each new machine or building. In the process, they learned how things stand up or fall down, about good or poor design, and about the importance of organization and order.

Best of all, they had a lot of fun in the process!

Back To Top This page last updated: April 12, 2007
Original content: Copyright © 2000 - 2007 Museum of American Heritage
Trademarks are the property of their owners