Tinkertoys; A Look Back

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(Last week's look back Lincoln Logs got such a warm reception that I decided to follow up with another childhood favorite, TinkerToy.)

I find it fascinating that so many famous toys were rejected at Toy Fair. It was in 1914 that Charles Pajeau, a stone mason from Evanston, Illinois traveled to to New York so he could show his new invention, Tinkertoys, at Toy Fair. 1  Pajeau had no luck convincing anyone to try his new toy. He was, however, like many toy inventors, a persistent person and created his own path to success by convincing two retailers to try his product out during Christmas. It immediately took off and the rest is history.

Tinkertoys

It is interesting to learn that Pajeau was inspired by watching children play with discarded odds and ends found around the house. Here is how the National Toy Hall of Fame describes the creation process:

Stonemason Charles Pajeau and partner Robert Petit dreamed up the “Thousand Wonder Toy” in the early 1910s after watching children create endless abstract shapes with sticks, pencils, and old spools of thread. Adding holes on all sides of a round wooden wheel sized for sticks included in the set, they named their creation Tinkertoy.

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The original Tinkertoys were made of wood and did not come in colors. Smell is a great stimulator of memory and I can still remember opening my can of Tinkertoys and breathing in that distinctive wooden smell. Color was added in the 1950's and Playskool changed the elements from wood to plastic when the company was acquired in 1985.


K'Nex, along with Lincoln Logs, now owns Tinkertoy and happily offers them in wood. I need to find a can so I can open them up and rediscover that wooden smell, long ago packed away in my childhood memory. 

1 Interestingly, both Pajeau and Lincoln Log inventor, John Lloyd Wright were both from the Chicago suburbs, Wright having grown up in Oak Park. Also of interest is that Pajeau came up with his design for Tinkertoys in 1914 and Wright conceived of Lincoln Logs in 1916. Must have been something in that Chicago water.

3 thoughts

  1. I wonder if kids will have the same fond memories of playing video games as we have of playing with Lincoln Logs, Tinkertoys, etc? I have some great memories of playing video games (& pinball, we had an old machine in our house) but they are not as strong as the offline games.

  2. Are these icon names owned by K-Knex or licensed from Hasbro? If so, was it a recent transaction and not publicized.
    Joe Kling

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