Frank Hornby: the man who put the world in a box

He brought us a world of miniature nuts and bolts, and diminutive plates and girders, clockwork train sets and model village landscapes, doll house furniture and fleets of toy cars, boats and planes. It is safe to say that no one had such a lasting impact on British childhood in the 20th century as Frank Hornby, the Liverpudlian clerk whose 150th anniversary is celebrated in today’s Google Doodle.

While Hornby‘s name is now most closely associated with keeping middle-aged men preoccupied in their attics, basements and garden sheds, poring over their Dublo train sets, he originally began his toy empire with construction kits for children. Patented in 1901 as the rather worthy sounding “Improvements in Toy or Educational Devices for Children and Young People”, his sets of perforated metal strips and girders were intended to

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