The LEGO Group, a giant toymaker with 9,000 employees, began with the craftsmanship of one man, Danish carpenter Ole Kirk Christiansen.
The person whose plastic bricks are known the world over spent many years building real farmhouses and furniture. Then, in 1932, he started making wooden toys. He almost went bankrupt that first year.
Mr. Christiansen made pull toys shaped like animals and piggy banks. He called his line of toys LEGO. The name is a combination of the Danish phrase "leg godt." It means "play well."
Christiansen didn't start making plastic toys until 1947. Soon after that, he hit on the idea that would launch millions of LEGO maniacs. His "automatic binding bricks," the forerunners of today's LEGO bricks, were designed to interlock. They were the same size as today's LEGO bricks. They also had the same pattern of studs on top. But they didn't have the knob-and-tube pattern underneath that gives LEGO toys their famous "clutching power" and allows two eight-stud bricks to be combined 24 ways. That design wasn't introduced until 1958.
DUPLOs, which are larger, were introduced for preschoolers in 1969. LEGO TECHNIC, for more skilled builders, first appeared in stores in 1977. Now there's even a LEGO line for babies: PRIMO was introduced in 1995. LEGO products are manufactured in Denmark, the United States, Switzerland, Brazil, and South Korea.
And guess who runs LEGO today? Ole Kirk Christiansen's grandson, Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen. (His last name is spelled differently because they made a mistake on his birth certificate.)