Monday, February 21, 2011

A Simple Log Cabin in the woods

I've been thinking about log cabins a lot these days - after my romp in the great north woods of Maine - and figured I might be able to tie them in nicely with this week's president's birthday theme. It was a tough choice - President's Birthday Week now also seems to be National Buy a New Car Week. I decided to go with the more historically accurate and fundamentally correct version, as both George and Abe were born and raised in log cabins and certainly did not drive cars.

First and to my great surprise, it was Swedes and Fins who brought log construction to America from their native countries. For some reason I thought log cabins were as all American as apple pie and chopping down cherry trees. Evidently not.

The only other cool thing I read was that some people claim log cabins are earthquake proof because they do not topple or fall apart - they simply slant. That's good to know.

And then Lincoln Logs popped into my mind while I musing about all of this in line at the grocery store. My three younger brothers and I used to play with Lincoln Logs when we were growing up. I decided to find out more about them and what was going on with them these days - like do kids still play with them?

I actually learned more about the earthquake theory. As it turns out, John Lloyd Wright, son of Frank Lloyd Wright, bought the rights for the Lincoln Log toy design. He claimed that the foundation of Tokyo’s earthquake-proof Imperial Hotel, which he saw while it was under construction, inspired the shape of his logs.

The next surprise was that Lincoln Logs were named after Frank Lloyd Wright's discarded middle name - Lincoln. They had nothing to do with Abe at all. So much for an even cooler president's week tie in.

Lincoln Logs were first produced in 1916 and records show that the J. L. Wright Company of Chicago, Illinois, obtained the patent for the design on August 31, 1920 and had the Lincoln Logs name registered on August 28, 1923. Building logs of similar designs had been produced by several other toy companies since the civil war but John L. Wright's version was very successful from the beginning and has remained so to this day. His design was copied, and some say improved upon, by the Halsam Products Company, also of Chicago, with their American Logs.

In 1943, the company was sold to Playskool who makes the building sets today. Over 100 million sets have been sold to date. Seems like kids still play with them. I know my grandsons have a set.

To me personally, it's all very interesting that I started with Lincoln Logs and am, in a way returning to them, having discovered all of the stuff in between way too, and unnecessarily complicated.

A Simple Log Cabin in the Woods • 8" x 8" watercolor framed to 12" x 12" • $200

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