Construction toys

Chatted yesterday with Ned Deily about Erector sets and Meccano, and he mentioned Girder and Panel construction toys, which I hadn’t heard of but which he had enjoyed as a kid; they came along a bit late for me, though I had played with earlier construction toys: Meccano, Tinkertoy, Erector, and Lego.

I’ll start with Girder and Panel and then go back to the beginning.


Girder and Panel. From Wikipedia:

Girder and Panel Building Sets were a series of plastic toy construction kits created by Kenner Toys in the mid-1950s.

The Girder and Panel Building Set construction kits enabled a child to build plastic models of mid-twentieth century style buildings. Vertical plastic girders were placed in the holes of a Masonite base board and horizontal girders were then locked into the vertical ones to create the skeletal structure of a model building. Brightly coloured plastic panels containing translucent “windows” could then be snapped onto the outer girders to create a curtain wall. Square navy-blue roof panels—some with translucent skylight domes molded into them—were laid on the topmost beams to complete the structure.

… Girder and Panel toy sets were an important toy in the transition from the metal-based Gilbert Erector Sets of the 1920-to-1950 era to the plastic toys of the modern age. While Lego is arguably the most popular contemporary construction toy, no other toy has replaced Girder and Panel as a reflection of modern building techniques.

Meccano. The original metal construction toy.


From Wikipedia:

Meccano is a model construction system created in Liverpool, UK by Frank Hornby. It is now based in Calais, France.

It consists of re-usable metal strips, plates, angle girders, wheels, axles and gears, with nuts and bolts to connect the pieces. It enables the building of working models and mechanical devices.

The ideas for Meccano were first conceived by Hornby in 1898 and he developed and patented the construction kit as “Mechanics Made Easy” in 1901. The name was later changed to “Meccano” and manufactured by the British company, Meccano Ltd, between 1908 and 1980. … In the USA, Meccano is sold under the Erector Set brand.

From metal to wood …

Tinkertoys. Wooden spools and sticks:


My posting of 3/13/15 has a section on the Tinkertoy Construction Set, which came out in 1914 (“six years after the Frank Hornby’s Meccano sets”).

Erector. More metal. A set from ca. 1922:


From Wikipedia:

An Erector Set (the trademark has always been “ERECTOR”) is a brand of metal toy construction sets, originally patented by Alfred Carlton Gilbert and first sold by his company, The Mysto Manufacturing Company of New Haven, Connecticut in 1913. In 1916, the company was reorganized as the A.C. Gilbert Company. Erector consists of various metal beams with regular holes for assembly using nuts and bolts. Other mechanical parts such as pulleys, gears, wheels, and small electric motors were also part of the system. What distinguishes construction sets like Erector (and its predecessor Meccano), is the ability to build a model, then take it apart and build something else, over and over again.

One of the pleasures of my childhood.

And then we enter the age of plastic …

Lego. Lego bricks:


From Wikipedia:

Lego … is a line of plastic construction toys that are manufactured by The Lego Group, a privately held company based in Billund, Denmark. The company’s flagship product, Lego, consists of colourful interlocking plastic bricks and an accompanying array of gears, minifigures and various other parts. Lego bricks can be assembled and connected in many ways, to construct such objects as vehicles, buildings, and even working robots. Anything constructed can then be taken apart again, and the pieces used to make other objects.

Lego began manufacturing interlocking toy bricks in 1949.

A fabulously successful toy. And the first to work to appeal to girls as well as boys. (Note the solidly boy-focused advertising for the earlier toys.)

And then came Girder and Panel sets.

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