Today in 1891, Ole Kirk Christiansen was born to a poor family in Jutland, Denmark (though I've also read some sources say it was Filskov.) Little is known about his childhood other than he worked factory jobs, trained as a carpenter and eventually opened his own shop in response to losing his job do to the depression. He built ironing boards, step ladders and wooden toys and when his factory burned down in 1947, he rebuilt and focused only on toys.
The term Lego comes from a Danish phrase "leg godt" or "play well." But it also means "I study" or "I put together" in Latin.
The Lego System of Play debuted in 1955 and this was the first time the now ubiquitous plastic studded bricks were seen. A patent was created for the interlocking shape and in recent years that patent has expired and been challenged in courts around the world. Lego's biggest rivel Mega Bloks (now Mega Brands Inc) has continued to sell interchangable bricks while Lego has been unable to prevent them citing trademark violation.
Lego has branched away from simple contstruction over the years to include more technical and even robotic construction. The toy is a household name, has spawned theme park type attractions and a stout world wide fan base. In the late 90's it teamed up with Lucasfilm to deliver Star Wars toys which lead to other branding cross overs including Batman and Harry Potter.
I've spent hundreds of not thousands of dollars on Lego over the years and will likely spend more on both myself and my kids. I hope in 20 years they'll continue to love Lego as much as I do.
For a good example of what can be done with Lego, check these out.
Sitcom Sets in Miniature
Lego Business Cards
Eddie Izzard Death Star Canteen done in Lego
at 9:48 AM