298 Paper Proposal

Robert Dallas

Building a Legacy: The Plastic Brick and the Longevity of Lego

The Lego Company was founded in 1932 in Billund, Denmark, and has had its various ups and downs across the span of over 80 years. The company has been a predominantly family-owned business for the duration of its life, passing from generation to generation. Ole Kirk Christiansen, the founder of Lego, initially started the company as a wooden-toy shop during the Great Depression. Godfredt Kirk Christiansen, Ole’s son, took the company in the direction many are familiar with today when he filed for a patent on the interlocking plastic bricks on July 29th, 1958 (Later published October 24th, 1961).[1] My research uses Ole’s creation to aid in answering the question of how the Lego Company has succeeded as a toy company, in the face of competition as well as the changing trends in entertainment, both in the physical world and the world of the media. As such, I believe that Lego’s marketing of the plastic brick allowed the company to maintain its place in the world market, continually adapting with the times in order to appeal to enough audiences and individuals to stay afloat as a brand and a company.

While Lego may still exist even in today’s market, the modern day cannot take credit for Lego’s breakthrough in the world market. Lego’s transition to the plastic interlocking brick system allowed it to break out of Denmark and out toward the rest of the world. The two countries that gave Lego the most media coverage during these decades were that of the United Kingdom, and the United States. This is based on the majority of my media sources coming from established newspapers and other media sources from these countries between the 60s and late 80s.[2] I emphasize this period of time over others because Lego seems to have had something of an expansion period during this time, with growing media attention and coverage in primarily the 70s and 80s.

My research will divide the study of Lego and its longevity into three separate sections. The first section will be devoted to the immediate aftermath of the Lego brick patent, covering media and documents from the 1960’s. One of the key sources of this time period is an episode from British television’s Colour Pictorial titled “The Land of Fairy Tales (1968).” Transitioning to the 1970s, this period does not have as much coverage from what I have researched thus far compared to the 1960s and 1980s; however, there is an article that will be addressed on behalf of the decade that comes from the New York Times: “Lego: How It All Came Together.” Analysis of the 1980s will cover the bulk of my research, with two examples of primary sources being articles from The Washington Post and the Chicago Tribune discussing Lego’s thriving business and its potential for longevity into today’s market.[3] Predominantly, this information will be retrieved from United States newspaper articles. Based on what has been retrieved and what I have read regarding the coverage of Lego, there seems to have been a significant boom in the popularity of Lego in America during the decade.[4]

A major issue I have encountered as I’ve researched this topic is a lack of sources outside of newspapers. This seems to be a combination of a lack of interest in covering Lego as a topic of scholarly discussion (evidenced by almost no scholarly texts using Lego as a medium of study), and Lego’s apparent refusal to publicly release a majority of its old advertising and media (evidence comes from the fact that none of their corresponding websites have access to a large quantity of archival material). As such, secondary sources for this research will include other brands such as Tyco and Hasbro, along other entertainment companies that have been covered by Forbes, Wall Street Journal, and similar sources as they appear.[5] The objective of these secondary sources will be to build a layout of the competition and hurdles that the Lego company had to overcome as it placed itself in the world market.

Ultimately I hope to paint a better picture of the scale at which Lego was operating during this time period, and that this research will provide the reader with insight as to why the Lego Company is still in business to this day.



Primary Sources

“The Land Of Fairy Tales” Colour Pictorial. British Pathé. United Kingdom, 1968.

Christiansen, Godtfred Kirk. Toy Building Brick. U.S. Patent 3,005,282 filed July 29, 1958, and issued October 24, 1961, https://patents.google.com/patent/US3005282.

Chicago Tribune, Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.exproxy.umw.edu/.

New York Times, Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.umw.edu/.

Resnik, Alan J, Harold E Sand, and J. Barry Mason. “Marketing Dilemma: Change in the ′80s.” California Management Review 24, no. 1 (1981): 49-57.

Washington Post, Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.umw.edu/.

What it is is Beautiful. 1981. Advertisement. Interlego A.G., United States, https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5371a0bfe4b05dd13820776b/t/5372d700e4b0a52017d86d34/1400035147340/1981+Lego+Ad?format=1000w.


Secondary Sources

“A Revival for Makers of Classic Toys.” New York Times. March 9, 1988. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.umw.edu/login?url=https://search.proquest.com/docview/110588154?accountid=12299.

Bjerager, Erik. “Denmark’s Lego Challenges Imitators of Its Toy Blocks Across Globe.” Wall Street Journal. New York: Dow Jones & Company Inc., 1987.

Caillois, Roger. Man, Play, and Games. New York: Free Press of Glencoe, 1961.

Clark, Beverly Lyon., and Margaret R. Higonnet. Girls, Boys, Books, Toys : Gender in Children’s Literature and Culture. Johns Hopkins Paperbacks ed. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000.

Cross, Gary. “Time, Money, and Labor History’s Encounter with Consumer Culture.” International Labor and Working-Class History 43 (1993): 2-17.

Cross, Gary. “Valves of Desire: A Historian’s Perspective on Parents, Children, and Marketing.” Journal of Consumer Research 29, no. 3 (2002): 441-47.

Cross, Gary. Kids’ Stuff : Toys and the Changing World of American Childhood. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1997.

Demick, Barbara. “Tyco Declares War in ‘Legoland’: Block Blocs Sue and Countersue as Danes Fight Knockoff.” Washington Post. April 19, 1987. Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.umw.edu/.

Fass, Paula S. “How Americans Raise Their Children: Generational Relations from the Revolution to the Global World.” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society Held at Philadelphia for Promoting Useful Knowledge 159, no. 1 (2015): 85-94.

Fass, Paula S. Encyclopedia of Children and Childhood : In History and Society. New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 2004.

Fass, Paula S., and Michael Grossberg. Reinventing childhood after World War II. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012.

Katz, Phyllis A. “Toys to Grow On.” Feminist Teacher 1, no. 4 (1985): 29. http://www.jstor.org/stable/40545563.

Ketchum, William C. Toys & Games. Smithsonian Institution. Smithsonian Illustrated Library of Antiques. New York: Cooper-Hewitt Museum, 1981.

Pursell, Carroll W. From Playgrounds to PlayStation : The Interaction of Technology and Play. 2015.

Sutton-Smith, Brian. The Ambiguity of Play. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001.


Background Sources

“The Greatest Toys on Earth: Lego Doesn’t Need Flash High-Tech Effects to Keep Kids Happy”. Report on Business Magazine. Vol. 7. Toronto: The Globe and Mail, 1990.

“World wire: Lego’s sales in U.S. fall”. Wall Street Journal. New York: Dow Jones & Company Inc., 1995.

Anonymous. “Lego and the Importance of Marketing: From Little Bricks Gr”. The Economist. London: The Economist Intelligence Unit N.A., Incorporated, 1988.

Burnside, Amanda. “Lego Leapfrogs Ahead”. Marketing. Suppl. Windows for Marketers. London: Haymarket Business Publications Ltd., 1994.

Darwent, Charles. “Lego’s Billion-Dollar Brickworks”. Management Today. London: Haymarket Business Publications Ltd., 1995. 64.

Frank, Robert. “Toys: Facing a Loss, Lego Narrates a Sad Toy Story”. Wall Street Journal. New York: Dow Jones & Company Inc., 1999.

Gofton, Ken. “The New Image Builders”. Marketing. Vol. 25. London: Haymarket Business Publications Ltd., 1986.

Kashani, Kamran. “Beware the Pitfalls of Global Marketing. Harvard Business Review. Vol. 67. Boston. October, 1989.

Kestin, Hesh. “Nothing like a Dane”. Forbes. Vol. 138. New York: Forbes, 1986.

Meeks, Fleming. “So Sue Me”. Forbes. Vol. 142. New York: Forbes, 1988.

Pereira, Joseph, and Cacilie Rohwedder. “A Bee Sees: Block by Block, Lego Is Building a Strategy For the Interactive Age — Toy Developed With Help From MIT Has Senses And a Brain; Will It Sell? — `I Wouldn’t Call It Playing’”. Wall Street Journal. New York: Dow Jones & Company Inc., 1998.

Redhead, David. “Packaging and Design: Pack Attack”. Marketing. London: Haymarket Business Publications Ltd., 1990

Serwer, Andrew E. “Lego to construct U.S. theme park”. Fortune. Vol. 127. New York: Time Incorporated, 1993.

Shenker, Israel. “The world according to Lego: 1,200 pieces of plastic provide the foundation for an expanding empire”. Chicago Tribune. July 27, 1988.

Townsend, Larry. “Lego devotees thrill to an interlocking land of their own”. Chicago Tribune. August 23, 1987.




(AFTER DELAY) History Symposium (Summaries and take-aways)

I attended a symposium covering the concepts of the husbands of women’s rights activists, the study of asylums in Virginia, and the cultural impact of Hamilton. I will keep this brief as it is less an explanation of the material discussed, and rather my critique/”take-aways” from their presentations


  • The first presenter had a very in-depth and informative argument, and her speech flowed well (the better your speech flows, the more apparent it is that you know your material). She was also quick to come up with answers to questions posed by the audience (quick thinking and smart responses are also key). Her only major issue that I noticed was that her volume was somewhat faint (Maintain good flow, but make sure people can hear you). It might not have helped that I sat in the back of the class.
  • The second presentation was also very in-depth and informative. There were a couple big issues that did hold her back. The first was continual stuttering and struggle to remember her lines (rehearsal is important before a presentation). The other issue was a lack of eye contact with the audience (In her defense, her eyes weren’t on her notes or the presentation, but also against her was the fact that she was looking anywhere but the audience).
  • Lastly, the final presentation was well received by both myself and the audience. She was very vocal, clear-toned, and though she stuttered at some parts, maintained a significant flow. Her real major flaw was the presentation itself. There were a few instances of moving animations or very bright and distracting figures (It’s ok to have imagery on a presentation, but make sure it isn’t stealing attention from you, the presenter)

In conclusion, both my 10 minute presentation and the Symposium have more or less humbled me in regard to having an appreciation for the work it takes to make a good presentation. This will likely be my last post on this blog for a while, so until we see each other again.

Presentation Thoughts?

Oral Presentations, I will admit, are not my favorite thing in the world. I am aware though that they are unavoidable, especially in a field that requires you to convince people that what you’re researching is legit if you want a paycheck. Future Practicalities aside, I do believe it is important to utilize oral presentations as Public speaking is a vital skill not just in a school environment, but in a “real-world job” environment as well.

My personal preparation for an oral presentation is not extremely extensive, though it will vary based on duration and significance (in regards to a grade, or a paycheck). Normally I jot notes down as a “cue card” and have that with me during a presentation, but I will use Notecards if they are in front of me. Also, rehearsing is something I tend to do, at least 4 or 5 times with friends.

There are a few valuable lessons I have learned from past presentations that have aced the criteria in the past. Meaningful movement (not swaying, but not standing in front of the projector or computer monitor the whole time) is important, as it shows your investment without you having to spell it out to your audience. And with the audience, focusing on the audience more than your presentation is also important. It shows that your presentation is in fact meant for them, and not your own self-assurance. If you have a nervous tick (muscle spasms, twitching, etc.), make sure you don’t draw attention to it purposefully. More often than not, they’re more likely listening to what you’re saying than looking at what you’re doing elsewhere (don’t challenge that logic, you’ll make everyone in the room uncomfortable).


Really the only meaningful advice I can give someone is to never let yourself stress out about a presentation. One of the most common reasons I’ve heard from friends in them “failing (I use this term loosely because it’s their personal opinion)” their presentations is that they psyched themselves out prior to presenting. If you overthink or grow paranoid as to whether or not your presentation is good or bad, you’re more liable to choke or blank when it comes time to actually present. This doesn’t necessarily mean you will break down and turn off at the podium, but your mistakes are more likely to be frequent and obvious to everyone. Work hard on a presentation (obviously), but don’t traumatize yourself while doing it (there’s no need to have a “‘Nam Flashback” over one presentation).

Databases (Late to the Party)

Right out of the gate, I use WorldCat for most of my bibliographies. My warning to anyone who tries to use WorldCat is that citations (particularly in the Chicago format) are not complete. I recommend Citation Machine, but you can also refer to your professors or literary writing professionals. It is not necessarily difficult to single out ideal sources in WorldCat, there are worse platforms to try and identify meaningful sources out of. JSTOR is also a good database; however, I admittedly do not use it as often as I should, solely because I’ve been using WorldCat longer and I’m more comfortable with it.

So on a personal note: Invest time in JSTOR because my professors insist it’s good.

Event, Experience, and Myth? (AKA, More Cohen)

This post may be more brief than my previous post differentiating two earlier components of Event and Experience (though I do not recall stating them both directly by name).

Cohen introduces a third way to interpret the Boxers, and it is a way in which I think is the most interesting, and closer to what historians try to dissect in regards to a book review: History as Myth. What this series brings to the table in particular is the idea that there is some history (eg. the Mythologized History), that seeks to answer a question with an answer that the writer themselves have projected. How this is different from regular history is that not only is this idea more based around ones personal feelings and circumstances of the time of writing, but (going to drag this word out here) regular history is often delivered by asking a question, researching that question, and then delivering the outcome that you find with complete acceptance that the history is what it is.

I find this interesting, because if there is one thing that I have always been taught, it’s that there is always more than one side of a story. In regards to history, there is never a definitive reason as to why something happened. Yes, history often generalizes a country or society so they can explain a conflict or event in a way that makes sense, but we as people are something of an enigma. I’ll stray from history for a brief moment and bring in some psychology for the sake of an argument. It’s truly difficult to explain why people do the things they do; often only they know why they do it, and sometimes even they don’t know why they are doing it. What does that have to do with history? Essentially, History will compile the most significant and important actions that embody an event or circumstance, and minor details will be thrown to the wayside. Details will be left out of history if historians believe that those details can be left out without damaging the overall event or causing a grand-scale outcry of “What happened to so-and-so event?”

That to me begs the question “What is more important: Reaching a logical conclusion? Or telling the entire truth?”

Perspectives of the Boxer Rebellion (Thanks Cohen)

From Cohen’s writings, I’ve picked out 2 significant ways to tell the Boxer Rebellion: first through the historian’s perspective, and second through the experiences provided to us by those who lived it.

The voices we hear from historians lay out the story of the Boxers in a cause-and-effect format, where they’ve taken apart every little detail, and find ways to correlate them to the overarching movement as a whole.  They do not just explain the Boxer Movement, but they go out of their way to pick out every faction and -what they deem as- significant event prior to the movement itself that lead to the inevitable creation of the aforementioned movement. The major issue of viewing through historians is that they tend to have their own agendas also, telling history in a way that puts the “actors (the people in the history)” in one certain light or another.

The alternative is that of experience, which is somewhat harder (in my opinion) to assemble in regards to a flowing narrative. The two major issues when dealing with history by experience is that: 1. Everyone comes from a different place, and therefore 2. Everyone has a different way of interpreting events. This way of viewing history feeds into the ideas of Bias, in which the people telling these stories interpret them in a way that fits their personal stances either in real-time, or at the time of the event.  Though while this may seem like an ineffective way of seeing history, people who lived in the moment have more to say in regard to the events as a whole. What history tells us and what those who experience it tell us may conflict or align; which is why it is important to see a way through both.

What I learned from the readings thus far, and from our discussions as a class, is that in a way, blending experience and historian interpretation may be an ideal way to reach the actual truth of a historic event. As I stated before, connections and differentiation are necessary. There is always more than one side of the story, and somewhere in the middle they culminate the actual event. Firsthand testimonies and Textbook sermons are in a sense two pieces of a puzzle, meaning that they are in need to each other in order to complete the whole picture.

Personal Introductions (WITH FLICKR)

Hi. I’m Robert. This will not only serve to fulfill my first assignment, but it will also give future viewers of this blog a little background about myself and where I’ve been. I was born in 1997 in Majuro, Marshall Islands.

Majuro aerial

I was adopted by a Military family, and brought to Virginia before I even turned 1. We lived in Quantico until I was 4, and my family was transferred over to Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan.

Kadena Air Base

We stayed there for about three years, and we were transferred once again; this time to Patch Barracks in Stuttgart, Germany.


After two years of living there, my father’s oversea tour was over, and we came back to Virginia; this time moving out into rural Spotsylvania. I have since lived here for the past nine or so years, but the impact that the cultures and histories of the world had on me in my time overseas has not left. I love the world outside of Virginia, and I want to learn more.


-PS: A former student of my professor of this class said I’d score bonus points if I brought Mongolians into the topic at any time, so here is the “Legacy of Genghis Khan.”


Genghis Khan Legacy


Fig. 1. Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Majuro aerial. 6 November 2013, Photographic print. Available from: Flickr Commons, https://www.flickr.com/photos/dfataustralianaid/10703502814/in/photolist-hiQftY-UaifE8-hizZiq-BX4C3r-BUKVNf-f7jnNZ-f7jnJ4-f7yBrb-f7jnk8-f7jncH-hk3duQ-7S5Qyz-4c5cwK-TLVySA-TLTJME-Sy1GrA-RnG9nM-SBGwu2-RnG1CP-RnG6Ec-RnG8up-RnG7yM-RnG4ZZ-Sy1GQm-Rk6xNs-RnG67t-Sy1G6A-S2RPME-SBGvRi-SqnEHg-RnG5wa-SqnE14-SqnKjk-RnG4kT-SqnG6M-SqnFoz-Ji7Kxp-bDyJeN-foZJRf-nSe1xy-BCaefU-C2YUsW-B7M8tA-C2YV1j-f7yABW-hi1WRr-C5mfoc-BvQsBB-BX4EaT-C5mgv2 (accessed September 7, 2017).

Fig. 2. Héctor García, Kadena Air Base. 30 December 2006, Photographic print. Available from: Flickr Commons, https://www.flickr.com/photos/torek/3181361809/in/photolist-5R8j2F-5R8jdk-7BMj25-5R8iZk-5Rczq3-5R8j8B-5R8iU6-5R8jaM-7BHwXg-XyJDX3-7Ys4zK-npBnj4-xmaXh-7oNiQB-nG4xAL-7oNiLa-4owMBN-sKcetM-4cAsXy-3xS1AM-7oSaYb-qT2NqV-74cSSj-7oSbgb-iHiwD-7Yx2yd-7oSbdC-7kNEYT-7oNj6P-7oNiNz-3xWqxm-5qDKgr-7Yvj5f-oiLtW9-7oNiH8-e1Xn4B-7oNiBe-2Bnegn-7oSbtJ-9rf4wS-e23Za1-6vKhEg-eytdaj-oZekDV-8fGFEN-7hK3WB-3xS2st-7oNiYn-pcuUo7-7Yvj2Y (accessed September 7, 2017).

Fig. 3. Edgar Ja, Stuttgart. 13 May 2017, Black and white photographic print. Available from: Flickr Commons, https://www.flickr.com/photos/edgarjansen/34262123933/in/photolist-SLKW1w-UcCkLH-NECTiV-QTf4xo-4zmhm3-8EaGEY-UDGKkH-ayCQdm-PaN6yM-jk3mBx-CTcvZ8-TCLf88-tnq8m-wgxekp-tUkTzn-tBL879-tUt9Zn-sXvQ4x-zWFBgB-TFh3jk-DKimFg-By937k-95jM5g-8WbQy3-LLMNa4-LodpL4-Qbtp2s-U5Axbf-iinFsc-ihduN1-Q5HzX1-D1wheu-bTvzBr-Wq2WSG-mgKicU-sXv7SK-8vj1c6-FG9Mfx-6a9hKy-yjjj6m-8wkV7P-8v4PL2-me1fy5-C3BkcN-8w3vmG-8uUBVJ-mjQpQX-nPpsik-kQoBBx-nAsCMR (accessed September 7, 2017).

Fig. 4. Cool Art, Genghis Khan Legacy. 11 February 2013, Black and white photographic print. Available from: Flickr Commons, https://www.flickr.com/photos/57901271@N02/8465907284/in/photolist-5Peby9-5Pebn1-9Cn5Ug-7pvtPm-owbYQD-fD5D2P-dU6ZhG-e9sWzF-ouKcBn-9Cq1jA-5Pebpm-atox2Q-rNcGKW-5pBCgL-dZj5Dt-5P9UBT-e9yAtL-85K2yh-oydVCn-VfjgyA-9Cn7or-kmuu5U-5ivdzw-5PebqG-adotTj-4pnzmP-9Cq2Ej-e9sXzi-eU33z-4V1JV8-e9yzVG-aYEGmz-aDxsr4-5Peb8w-bf9Hce-7prBdH-akBwG-9BgiRM-7j8ne7-5Peb5N-qjoWzo-e9yAnw-7prBaz-LAH8Cy-KGRq2D-e9sVWT-dJTznY-9Cq2wu-e9yzJy-e9sVri (accessed September 7, 2017).