The REAL Lincoln Logs

First marketed in 1918, John Lloyd Wright’s Lincoln Logs remain one of the most iconic (and copied) building toys in history. From the collection, here’s the real thing from- yes- Frank Lloyd Wright’s son, John.

A bit of background. John Lloyd Wright, Frank’s second son (b. 1892) achieved his own measure of architectural success in spite of his father’s domineering interference.

Raised with five siblings in the Wright’s Oak Park, Chicago residence, their activities centered on the playroom that Wright added to the house in 1895, a long, high-vaulted room full of building blocks and "funny mechanical toys" which John later described as an almost magical space in a surpassingly beautiful house.

In his late teens and with scant formal education John struck out on his own, initially pursuing a career as a draftsman. He quickly worked his way up in various offices in the Los Angeles area but, desiring a business of his own, applied to the great Otto Wagner and was accepted into his school in Vienna. Hearing of his son’s plans, Frank Lloyd Wright prevailed upon John to enter his own practice and after some consideration John arrived in Chicago.

Besides his design work in Wright’s practice he worked as the supervisor on projects including Chicago’s fabled Midway Gardens, a fantastical indoor-outdoor dance and entertainment facility that is now long gone.

Through the years their work together was fraught with discord and finally ended after an argument about Frank’s refusal to make timely salary payments to his son. Interestingly, their breakup occurred in Japan where in 1917 John was managing the construction of his father’s phenomenal Imperial Hotel in Tokyo- a design credited with inspiring John’s concept for the construction set he later named Lincoln Logs.

In 1920 a patent was issued to John Lloyd Wright for his invention of the Lincoln Logs Construction Set. Lincoln Logs consisted of notched miniature logs that could easily be assembled into a log cabin structure. The Lincoln Logs Construction Set was manufactured by the Red Square Toy Company from 1916 to 1943 and sold in Chicago’s Marshall Field Company and many other outlets.

While the sets became a success, John’s interest in architecture prevailed and he sold his patent rights and concentrated on his design career spent mostly on the West Coast. His buildings are widely admired for their originality and use of contemporary materials, while his grounding in the organic architectural thinking of his father, of Louis B. Sullivan and other mentors is evident.

Many imitators lifted John’s concept- American Logs, Frontier Logs, Maison Forestiere, etc.- but the real Lincoln Logs are still around and still going strong.

Lincoln Logs Single Set  Patented Aug. 31, 1920 Name Registered Aug. 28, 1923
Date of manufacture: ca. 1920’s
Manufacturer: J. L. Wright, Incorporated, 232 E. Erie Street, Chicago, USA
Materials: logs: stained softwoods; roof parts: stained softwood and gummed canvas
Box contents: construction parts, 8 page instructions, cardboard inserts
History details:
Current Lincoln Logs distributor: