Lincoln Logs: 100 Years of Play

Reading Time: 3 minutes
All photos from K'nex/Lincoln Logs.
All photos from K’nex/Lincoln Logs.

I was struck by a random thought this morning. If you transported a child from 1916 to 2016, how would they react to modern life? Our day-to-day life is so conceptually different–instant international communications, disposable mass-produced items, and electronics everywhere. Then it hit me how different playing would be. Looking at my son’s toys, I see a majority of plastic based machines that have electronics. I see dart guns. I see a spare phone he uses for road trips (consider this; I hand a device more powerful than the computers that put man on the moon to a pre-schooler). And then, in the middle of it all, I see the one toy he would be familiar with: Lincoln Logs.

Now owned by the same people who make K’nex, these quintessential building toys were actually invented by John Lloyd Wright, son of famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright. I actually didn’t know this until recently and it’s just such a cool little factoid. But back to the toys; one of the reasons the Lincoln Log has stuck around so long is that they got it right almost immediately. The basic interlocking sticks and roofs make building basic designs fun. The tin that the 100th-anniversary set came in is essentially the same one they’ve always come in. In fact, when my own mother saw the cylinder, she quickly remarked, “That’s how they looked when I was a little girl!” No, my mom is not 100 years old, by the way.

But she sure felt like she was when I showed her the package theme!
But she sure felt like she was when I showed her the package theme!

She was right, though. My own childhood memories of Lincoln Logs involve a cardboard canister, but the same design. My best friend moved to Israel and this was one of the toys they took with them. Every time we visited, the logs came out. That container was slowly falling apart last time I saw it, but they still had it as of 1999.

I want to take a minute and note that as a Sabbath-observant Jew, Lincoln Logs have an added value-add in being a toy any kid can use on the Sabbath, as they do not contain electronics (and even if one is strict about not using a building toy, they are impermanent).

I also love that Lincoln Logs are 100% made in the USA; I’m not a rabid patriot, but in an era where we talk about buying local, it’s nice to see a local toy company I can support.

Here’s where things get different, though. Normally, when I get a toy to review I try it out, maybe give to Ben or another kid to try. With the Lincoln Logs, I wanted to change things up. Instead of making a big deal about having a review toy, I simply put it in the playroom at my parent’s house. No fanfare or anything. Then, the next time my army of nephews and nieces came over, we watched them. At first, the Logs were ignored for more modern toys. There were some magnetic locking tiles (the current hotness) that got some love. The K’nex sets were also a big deal. But now it’s been a few months. The tiles are half-scattered under furniture. K’nex are all built and basically ignored, as they have been “used.” The Lincoln Log canister, however, remains in the middle of anything. They’re taken out for visits, and then carefully put away by the kids themselves. They don’t get dragged around the house, and the finished results aren’t considered permanent showpieces. They don’t rely on licensing that will one day be stale (seriously, guys, who else has old Filmation Ghostbusters toys? Just me? Dang). They are a timeless, classic toy.

Remove the couch from this photo and it could have been taken at ANY point in the last century. How wild is that?
Remove the couch from this photo and it could have been taken at ANY point in the last century. How wild is that?

So, if you took a kid from 1916 and put him in my playroom? Yes, he would be enthralled by the lights on some and the smoothness of the plastic. He would probably think the sheer volume of toys meant we were rich. But at the end of the day, when the flashy toys had stopped entertaining?

I bet he’d be playing with the Lincoln Logs.

K’nex/Lincoln Logs was kind enough to provide me with that huge box for review purposes. In the first time in the history of my reviewing things, my mother’s reaction was not “You’re not leaving that here, are you?” but instead “You’re leaving that here, right?”. You won my mom over, Lincoln Logs. That’s no short order.

Get the Official GeekDad Books!