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In 1932 Ole Kirk Christiansen, master carpenter and joiner in the village of Billund, Denmark, sets up business. His firm manufactures stepladders, ironing boards - and wooden toys. In 1934 the company and its products now take on the name LEGO, which is formed from the Danish words "LEgGOdt" ("play well"). In 1947 the LEGO company is Denmark's first to buy a plastic injection-molding machine for making toys. In 1949 the company produces about 200 different plastic and wooden toys, including Automatic Binding Bricks, a forerunner of the LEGO bricks we know today.

LEGO Logo ( They are sold only in Denmark. In 1955 after further developing the LEGO Bricks, the company launches the revolutionary "LEGO System of Play": 28 sets and 8 vehicles. It also sells supplementary elements. In 1958 the current LEGO stud-and-tube coupling system is invented and patented. The new coupling principle makes models much more stable. The possible combinations of bricks run into astronomical figures.

Introduced in the United States in 1962, the first LEGOs came in loose sets of bricks. By 1966, however, LEGO kits were guiding young hard hats in snapping together all kinds of buildings, trucks, planes, and ships. The LEGO Group expanded its audience with the 1969 addition of the DUPLO line of big bricks for preschoolers and, in 1977, the TECHNIC line of sophisticated projects for older kids and teens. Within the last decade, an active online community of LEGO fans has developed new designs and drawing programs in which new constructions can be recorded. In 1998, LEGO introduced LEGO SCALA Planet, a kit specially designed for girls that combines the company's traditional construction elements with a family of dolls and fashion accessories, a magazine, and an interactive Web site. LEGO came to the United States during some of the coldest years of the Cold War, a period that also saw a heightened interest in education and toys that could teach. U.S. leaders exhorted schools to start turning out scientists and mathematicians, who were seen as key combatants in the arms and space races with the Soviet Union. In the spirit of the times, LEGO promised that its bricks would "develop the child's critical judgment, manual dexterity, and ability to think for himself." It's no accident that the words "LEGO" and "imagination" often pop up together. The bright, colorful plastic bricks can be joined in countless combinations and have been a favorite with kids, parents, and teachers since their introduction in 1958. Unlike Erector Sets and Tinkertoys, which appeal more to older children, LEGO bricks are loved by builders of all ages, even infants more interested in knocking down than in building.