Lincoln Logs

Lincoln Logs were first produced sometime between 1916 and 1917 by John Lloyd Wright, son of the notable architect Frank Lloyd Wright. In 1918, the toy was marketed by the Red Square Toy Company and by John Lloyd Wright, Incorporated of Chicago, Illinois.

The mold for the toy was based on the architecture of the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, designed by the inventor's father. The foundation of the hotel was designed with interlocking beams, which made the structure 'earthquake proof'. This feature assisted in the design of the toy logs, ensuring stability of the miniature buildings created with the toy set.

K'nex, the toy's current distributor, states the product was named after Abraham Lincoln, 16th president of the United States. Lincoln Logs originally came with instructions on how to build Uncle Tom's Cabin as well as Lincoln's cabin.

Records show that the J. L. Wright Company of Chicago, Illinois, obtained a patent for the design on August 31, 1920 and had the Lincoln Logs name registered on August 28, 1923. Building logs of similar designs had been produced by several other toy companies since the Civil War but John L. Wright's version was very successful from the beginning and has remained so to this day.

The idea for Lincoln Logs struck John Lloyd Wright as he watched workers build one of his father's designs, an earthquake-proof building in Japan. The construction toy he created came with logs notched at both ends so kids could build structures sturdy enough to stand up to rough play. Good timing and a good 'hook' made for success. Lincoln Logs appeared in 1924, just as parents were discovering the value of construction toys.

Wright used the storied past of the American frontier to sell his creation, naming the toy after President Abraham Lincoln's fabled childhood cabin. Kids could be as resourceful and self-reliant as their pioneer forerunners who rose from humble origins to become, well, President, in at least one case. Bucking advertisers' requests to picture the toy on the box, Wright's packaging featured a simple drawing of a log cabin, a small portrait of President Lincoln, and the slogan, 'Interesting playthings typifying the spirit of America.' Television shows like Pioneer Playhouse and Davy Crockett featured Lincoln Logs advertisements, boosting sales enormously in the early 1950s. Lincoln Logs are still sold today, more than three-quarters of a century after they first appeared.


Updated: 8 October 2019

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