In Liverpool, England, in 1901, Frank Hornby patented a toy called Mechanics Made Easy. The toy consisted of a set of fifteen different tinplate pieces perforated with holes so that they could be fastened together with nuts and bolts to make models. Over the next few years, new pieces and different sets were introduced. In 1908, the company changed its name to Meccano. In 1926, Meccano in Colours (red green and brass) was introduced. The company had great success exporting its products to British Commonwealth countries but failed to succeed in America where Erector Sets had become popular. The Meccano company continued to manufacture its construction sets (as well as Hornby trains) until it closed in 1980. Its original French subsidiary, which also purchased the Erector trademark, still produces the sets as Erector Meccano.
In 1913, Dr A C Gilbert, an Olympic gold medallist in pole vaulting, invented the Erector Set, a collection of steel parts and motors that could be used to make all kinds of mechanical models. The next year, Charles Pajeau developed Tinker Toys, a similar toy for younger children.
John Lloyd Wright, son of the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright, was impressed by the way his father used prefabricated interlocking blocks in the design of the earthquake-proof Imperial Hotel in Tokyo in 1916 and designed a set of toy interlocking blocks, which he called Lincoln Logs, which children could us to construct buildings and other structures.
In 1949, a Danish toy maker, Ole Christiansen, began to manufacture toy plastic blocks that fitted together in many different configurations. It has been calculated that just six of these Lego blocks can fit together in more than 100,000,000 different ways.