Friday, September 19, 2014

Lincoln Logs Come to Maine - Dispatches from Maine

One of my favorite playthings when I was young was a set of Lincoln Logs.  They came in a long, round tube with a metal bottom and a pry-off lid and the contents gave me hours of enjoyment when I was growing up.  There were various sizes of notched redwood logs and other pieces, some painted green for the roof, and always a bright red block for the chimney.  And one could always buy more if something larger than a simple log cabin was intended.

Lincoln Logs © was the brain child of John Lloyd Wright (1892-1972), the estranged second son of Frank Lloyd Wright.  Himself an architect of some note, John Lloyd came up with the idea for the toy while working with his father on the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo.  He launched the Red Square Toy Company (later J.L. Wright Manufacturing) when he returned home to the United States.  The Lincoln Log concept dates from 1916, and production began two years later.  Wright received a patent in 1920 which he later sold.  The production of wooden pieces continued into the 1970s when the misguided decision to make the pieces out of plastic was a complete and utter failure.  One wonders if the young Abraham Lincoln’s father sat him on his knee one day and looked him in the eye: “I want to say one word to you.  Just one word . . . are you listening?  Plastics.  There is a great future in plastics.”  No, I don’t think so.  You can’t make a log cabin out of plastic.  So production of Lincoln Logs once again relied on wood, and after almost a century of production it entered the National Toy Hall of Fame in 1999. 

A couple of days ago K’NEX of Hatfield, Pennsylvania, the company that currently manufactures and distributes Lincoln Logs under license from the Rhode Island based toy company Hasbro, announced that it was happily moving production from China back to the United States and to the State of Maine.  The governor (he who shall not be named), who likes to tell everyone that “Maine is Open for Business,” was quick to announce the move and welcome Lincoln Logs to the Pine Tree State where local wood will be used in the production (there are no redwoods here . . . and who wants to cut down a redwood in the first place?).

Pride Manufacturing, a wood manufacturing company in the Waldo County hamlet of  Burnham, which employs around 130 souls and until now was known primarily for its wooden golf tees and cigar tips, will produce the wood pieces which will then be sent to K’NEX, in Pennsylvania (they also manufacture Tinkertoys), for painting, packaging, and distribution.  Production is ramping up in Burnham and should be going full tilt by November, adding between five and ten new employees at the Burnham plant.

I can see why the governor is so excited.

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