Founder Frank Hornby (15th of May 1863) had no engineering education, though he invented and produced one of the worlds most famous toy. In fact, Hornby was in the wholesale provision business in Liverpool. His father, John Hornby, was a provision salesman.

In 1887, Frank married the daughter of a customs officer when he was 24 years old. After his father died the same year, Frank became a bookkeeper with David H. Elliot who imported meat in Liverpool.

Both Frank's sons, Roland Godefroy Hornby (1889) and Douglas Egerton Hornby (1890) were to become Directors of "Meccano Ltd" in due course.

First Meccano models

The first toys Frank made from metal strips for his sons were complete models of trucks, bridges, and cranes without interchangeable parts. Frank thought about thus and decided to make separate parts that could be bolted together with screws to make more different models. This eventually led to a breakthrough and the concept that made him a rich man.

meccano constructionFrank started to use strips which were half an inch wide and made holes in them, spaced at half inch intervals. These strips were cut by hand from copper sheet. In the beginning he manufactured his own screws but eventually found a source of supply. Today, these same measurements are still in use.

Fionally, by the end of the year 1900 Frank Hornby had created a set of toy parts and was now thinking of marketing them. He patented his invention but to enable him to do this he had to borrow some money (five pounds) from David Hugh Elliot, his employer at the time. The patent was for "Improvements in Toy or Educational Devices for Children and Young People" and this was lodged with the patents office on 9th January 1901.

Now, Frank Hornby had to look for companies to produce his patented product. His problems were just about to start as he still had a wife and children to support on little wage and a full time job. He had to find time to show his invention to shops and wholesalers, but got more disappointments than orders.

The sets he made appeared very crude and poorly finished. But at this time his boss started to get interested in what Hornby was doing and offered him some empty work space next to the office where he worked.

So at this point, Hornby and his employer Elliot became business partners.

Hornby registered his famous trade mark "MECCANO" on the 14th September 1907.

Meccano links

Meccano value

What's it worth? Take a look at this Meccano price guide: sold listings for a value indication.

Meccano forum (2 comments)

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Jeff Donnelly - October 2, 2013

does every piece (except nuts and bolts)of meccano have the brand name stamped onto it?
►reply: As a general rule just about all Meccano parts are stamped with the word Meccano. There are of course plenty of exceptions, but this is the easiest way to be certain. Nickel-plated parts weren't always stamped before or during WW I, but from then on just about every part that was painted in red, green, or whatever color has been stamped. If you have a red or green or zinc part that doesn't say Meccano on it it's almost certainly not Meccano. (more info on identifying Meccano here)

Rick Rogel - January 2, 2012

Where can I purchase the erector Gauge 1 locomotive, #830507