Sunday, 11 May 2014

The Toy Maker

Finished May 11
The Toy Maker: The Life and Times of Inventor Frank Hornby by Anthony McReavy

This is the biography of Frank Hornby, inventor of Meccano, Hornby Trains, and Dinky Toys. Frank grew up in a working class family in Liverpool and showed much curiosity as a child. He became a desk clerk working for an importer and it was through playing with his own young sons that he came up with the idea that became Meccano. Luckily for him, his employer encouraged him, even lending him the money to register his patent and starting out as a funding partner in the business once it started.
Frank deviated from the normal practice of manufacturers by dealing directly with retailers, starting with hardware stores and general merchants, as this was before the advent of stores specific to toys. He was keenly aware of the importance of safeguarding ideas, and not only registered his patents but worked strongly to defend them against imitators, both at home and abroad.
Frank built success on top of success, and became a solid and respected businessman in Liverpool, even running successfully as MP for one term.
Meccano not only became a successful children's toy due to his hard work, but also his innovative marketing ideas, which included toy specific magazines, and contests for those who built things with it. His influence on more than one generation of engineers brought his inventions into laboratories and universities as tools for development as well.
This book outlines not only his life, but also the inventions that he brought to life and the history of the company he created. An enlightening biography.

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