A History of Construction Toys Through the Years

At Laser Pegs® we’re obsessed with all kinds of toys and how they have evolved. Since we’re in the business of developing light up construction toys and kits, we thought we’d take a look back at construction and building toys through the ages.

Wooden Blocks and Train Sets

In the mid-1800s kids were introduced to alphabet blocks that helped them learn their letters. We’re guessing those same kids also used them as building blocks, too. Why wouldn’t they? Later in that century, the Swedish company BRIO (standing for the Brothers Ivarson of Osby Sweden) introduced the first wooden figure-8 train set.

Joshua Lionel Cowen improved on the train set, introducing the first battery-operated engine in the first decade of the 20th century. Thus our enduring fascination Lionel train sets was born. As train sets involved, so did the miniature cities and villages that the train depots and tracks called home. Now that’s construction!

Early 1900s Construction Toy Boom

Some of the biggest names in construction toy sets came out in the early 1900s. In fact three big ones came out between 1910 and 1920.

In 1913 the metal toy Erector Sets were introduced. Trained doctor and inventor Alfred Canton Gilbert dreamed up this construction toy concept during a train ride to New York. Gilbert was fascinated by the girders he witnessed being erected to support the electric lines that were used by the New York railroad to convert steam into electricity. The inventor created the toy as a way to understand how buildings were made and motors worked.

Charles H. Pajeau and Robert Pettit launched the wooden Tinkertoy Construction set in 1914. Tinkertoys were designed to appeal to younger children and came about after Pajeau saw children playing with empty thread spools and sticks. Tinkertoys are now available in both wooden and plastic versions.

Lincoln Logs came along in 1916 thanks to inventor John Lloyd Wright, son of Frank Lloyd Wright. The younger Wright based his design on one of his father’s buildings, the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, which utilized interlocking beams to help stabilize the building during earthquakes. The toy was named after President Abraham Lincoln who, as most of us know, was born in a log cabin.

LEGOs have evolved over the years, but Danish inventor and toy maker Ole Kirk Kristiansen started the original company in 1932. The iconic, interlocking LEGO brick, as we know it today, first came on the scene in 1958. Over the years, LEGO has offered kids around the world endless ways to build everything from animals, to vehicles and a wide range of buildings.

Laser Pegs® Lights Up the Building Toy Market

Our founder, Jon Capriola, came up with the idea for Laser Pegs® back in 2002, when he saw people wearing LED-powered, glowing necklaces at a Microsoft Tech event he was attending. Capriola wanted to create an interlocking piece building set that would use similar light technology, with blocks that would illuminate in different colors. Laser Pegs® construction toys were born and officially introduced to the toy market in 2009.

Since then, Laser Pegs® has continued to grow, and we continue to create cool, new construction kits for kids to enjoy. We hope your kids love playing with them as much as we have fun creating them!