How Lincoln Logs Symbolize The Untold History of America’s Forests
Lincoln Logs are, in many ways, a crystallized form of the Americana spirit– they embody the kind of simple, folksy, down-home image that pioneer America has come to symbolize. With the slogan, “Interesting playthings typifying the spirit of America”, Lincoln Logs promote self-reliance and a kind of practical, industrious creativity.
The name “Lincoln Logs” is generally thought to be a nod towards the much admired figure of American history, Abraham Lincoln, who grew up in a log cabin and embodied the rustic, “authentic” patriotism felt in the wake of World War I (when Lincoln Logs first began appearing on the market). But some historians suggest the name is instead a gesture towards another prominent figure of American history, whose story is more intimately tied to Lincoln Logs: Frank Lloyd Wright– born Frank Lincoln Wright.
John Lloyd Wright, an architect in his own right and son of famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright, was inspired to make Lincoln Logs after watching his father working on the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo. The elder Wright needed a way to ensure the hotel’s safety from earthquakes and so employed the strategy of creating notched beams that would settle securely against one another, just as Lincoln Logs do on a smaller scale. The idea of Lincoln Logs is simple: smooth, wooden segments (of varied lengths) are notched near the ends, allowing them to be stacked on one another, just as real log cabins have been made for hundreds of years.
When they were first produced in 1916, Lincoln Logs were crafted out of redwood; the West was notoriously a rich source of timber, and redwoods– with their immense, towering frames– were a favored material source. Their organic substance also ensured their continued success throughout World War II, when metals were rationed for the wartime effort. Briefly during the 1970s, the logs were made out of plastic, but this proved a colossally poor business move as much of the sets’ popularity rested on their natural origins. Lincoln Logs quickly resumed their native log source, using the stained pine they are still made out of today. In the last few years, Lincoln Logs have begun transferring back their manufacturing out of China and back to the US.
Like Frank Lloyd Wright’s buildings (whose credits include the Guggenheim and Falling Water), Lincoln Logs continue to delight and entertain a century after their invention. But where Frank Lloyd Wright’s success is in his creations’ permanence, Lincoln Logs’ is in their ability to be collapsed and built again.