Friday, December 16, 2005

Lincoln Logs or Mao Sticks the demise of America’s National Toy.

A few months ago I came across an old box of Lincoln Logs upon which the toy maker proclaimed “America’s National Toy”. Lincoln Logs were a truly great American toy as John Lloyd Wright son of the noted architect created them. (Oddly the toys do let one create Prairie Style structures). When I visited a big box retailer last week after I decided to see if any toys were made anywhere outside of China. Last year one of my students ask me why ALL of his toys said ‘made in China’. The third grader was somewhat puzzled as to why no Americans would want to spend 12 hours a day for low pay sticking Bratz’ heads on Bratz’ bodies.
As I perused the popular playthings I came across a box of Lincoln Logs and found that they no longer carry the claim of being America’s National Toy. This claim can no longer be made since they are no longer made in the USA. Like Bratz, and My Little Ponies and nearly everything else in the store, they were made in China. But when I examined the Legos I found that some portions of the product were still produced in Denmark. If the Danes have a national toy I’m sure it’s these colorful universally fitting plastic forms. While reading the fine print I found that they are actually made in Denmark, Switzerland and the Czech Republic with some components coming from the Asian giant. While other than cheese, Legos are a considered the main product identified with the Scandinavian nation. (Danish modern furniture is no longer modern and has been made in Asia for the last 30 years). This modular toy with Euro flair is the pride of the Danes. While some of the units are made by the Swiss and Czechs (and most American couldn’t tell you the difference between any of these people.) they still speak of proud modern design and craftsmanship. So why is it the Danes still make their trademark designer playthings (I’m not referring to the blue movies they produced in the 60’s) while the USA out sources its toy of national pride. Lincoln Logs represented so many things, from the pioneering spirit to the sense that great things can be rendered from the raw wood of our land or that the scion of a great architect can make a fortune in marketing toys. But that is no more, for now they are created on some assembly line in some Sino boomtown rendered by the same hands that creates imitation Harris Tweeds for canines. America please bring your toys home.

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