The Original Lincoln Logs

December 2007


Four score and seven years ago, a set of interlocking redwood toy-sized logs were patented by John Lloyd Wright. Inspiration for the toy's name may have been in honor of John's father's birth name, Frank Lincoln Wright; or as a tribute to Abraham Lincoln's log cabin origins; or simply from the phonetic similarity of “linking” and Lincoln.


Four years earlier, John had traveled with his father to Tokyo, Japan, during the building of the Imperial Hotel. The story goes that John was watching the interlocking of beams during the construction of the hotel's foundation and developed his idea for Lincoln Logs. 


In 1918, John's Lincoln Logs were marketed by the Red Square Toy Company of Chicago. The original set included instructions on how to build Uncle Tom's cabin as well as Lincoln's log cabin. The Lincoln log cabin instructions included an illustration of the completed toy cabin that looked remarkably similar to Lincoln's birthplace cabin enshrined in a neoclassical Greek-style memorial building in 1911 at his birthplace site. At one time the birthplace cabin was thought to contain actual logs from the original 1808 cabin, but today it is acknowledged that although some logs may be from the period, the cabin is only symbolic of Lincoln's humble beginnings. 


Some interesting Lincoln Log facts:


  • Over 100 million sets of Lincoln Logs have sold since their introduction.


  • In 1926, Child Life Magazine published advertisements for the purchase of the Big Combination Set containing 234 logs, 2 roofs, and a chimney for $4, including shipping.


  • Lincoln Logs were among the first toys to be promoted on a television show - 1953's Pioneer Playhouse.


  • Lincoln Logs reached their height of success with the Davy Crockett craze of the 1950's.


The original Lincoln Logs are still readily available today. sells a 115-piece commemorative edition set for $40 and a collector's edition set in a wooden case for $100. The pages of the Back to Basics Toys catalog transport you back to the days of your childhood when playing with toys generated creativity, joy, and unstructured fantasy (in stark contrast to today's ready-made, instant gratification, sensory overload, done-deal, technology-driven toys and games). It feels good to want your children and grandchildren to experience the classic toys that made you who you are today. And it's refreshing to find a company like Back to Basics Toys that is dedicated to the proposition that the traditional, high-quality play experience shall not perish from the earth.


Footnote: Frank Lloyd Wright was born Frank Lincoln Wright on June 8, 1867 in Richland Center, Wisconsin. He changed his name after his parents' divorce to honor his mother's family, the Lloyd Joneses.