Collectors Corner: Lincoln Logs
By Michele Alice
Architectural construction toys have been around since, well, babies' building blocks, but few have been as enduringly popular as Lincoln Logs. Inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame in 1999, this year (2016) marks the 100th anniversary of the toy.
In 1916, John Lloyd Wright was in Tokyo assisting his father, famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright, with the construction of the Imperial Hotel when his attention was particularly drawn to the interlocking design of the foundation, said to render the structure "earthquake-proof." He realized that a similar design could be applied to the log toys that existed at the time, and upon his return to the US, he started The Red Square Toy Company to market his idea. (The name Red Square was derived from the red signature tiles his father placed in many of his houses.)
John Wright named his system of small, notched, interlocking pieces Lincoln Logs in honor of the 16th president. The first sets included enough logs of various lengths, windows, chimneys, doors, roofs, and instruction sheets for constructing either Abraham Lincoln's or Uncle Tom's cabin, and success quickly resulted in the issue of larger and more complex designs.
During World War II, when many toy companies were forced to suspend operations due to government restrictions on materials, there was no shortage of wood for Lincoln Logs, and the company (which by then he had renamed J. L. Wright Company) attracted the attention of Playskool, which purchased the company in 1943.
The logs in the early sets had been manufactured of redwood, but after the acquisition of Playskool by Milton Bradley in 1968, production was switched to plastic, and then back to stained woods after acquisition by Hasbro in 1984. Since the 1970s, production has taken place largely overseas, but the current license holder, K'NEX, recently moved the manufacture of the wood logs to Maine, partly in an effort to control quality.
If you're a Boomer, you probably remember playing with Lincoln Logs during their most popular period of the 1950s and early 60s. If you're a collector, you may be attracted by the quality of materials or the imaginative play they afford.
Luckily for all, Lincoln Logs regularly appear at yard and estate sales and are amply represented at online auctions where bulk lots of pieces are often sold by the pound. Interested in individual sets? A 1926 No. 234 by the J. L. Wright Company recently sold for $160, while a Disney World Wilderness Lodge set fetched $222.41!
Interested in finding out more about this fun collectible? Check out the list of resources listed below, and
Architectural Construction Toys - Encyclopedic database includes dozens of toys from A to Z.
Build it with Lincoln Logs (Chicago History Museum) - History Lab lesson plan includes history and vintage ads.
Classic Toy Museum - Celebrates old toys that are still popular. While there, check out the associated Banned Toy Museum and Burlingame Museum of Pez Memorabilia sites.
Encyclopedia of Play in Today's Society (Rodney P. Carlisle - Google Books) - Great source for looking up all kinds of toys.
History of Lincoln Logs (John Lloyd Wright ) - Includes photos of several vintage sets and ephemera.
K'NEX - Company site includes history, downloadable instruction sheets, and a list of parts that can be purchased individually.
Manufacturing of Lincoln Logs shifts to Maine and fits nicely - Portland Press Herald (Maine) article.
The Strong (National Museum of Play) - Home of the National Toy Hall of Fame to which Lincoln Logs was inducted in 1999.
Vintage Lincoln Logs (Collectors Weekly) - Concise history with links to most-watched online auctions.
Why Lincoln Logs Homes Lincoln Logs International - Just in case you're interested in a full-size version.
About the author:
Michele Alice is EcommerceBytes Update Contributing Editor. Michele is a freelance writer in the Berkshire mountains of Massachusetts. She collects books, science fiction memorabilia and more! Email her at makalice @ adelphia.net eBay ID: Malice9
You may quote up to 50 words of any article on the condition that you attribute the article to EcommerceBytes.com and either link to the original article or to www.EcommerceBytes.com.
All other use is prohibited.