Frank Hornby

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Frank Hornby
Frank Hornby 2.jpg
Born(1863-05-15)15 May 1863
Copperas Hill, Liverpool, Lancashire, England
Died21 September 1936(1936-09-21) (aged 73)
Maghull, Lancashire, England
Occupation Toy inventor, Businessman, Politician
Known forInventor of Meccano
Spouse(s)Clara Walker Godefroy
ChildrenRoland, Douglas, Patricia
Parent(s)John Oswald Hornby, Martha Hornby (née Thomlinson)

Frank Hornby (15 May 1863 – 21 September 1936) was an English inventor, businessman and politician. He was a visionary in toy development and manufacture, and although he had no formal engineering training, he was responsible for the invention and production of three of the most popular lines of toys based on engineering principles in the 20th century: Meccano, Hornby Model Railways and Dinky Toys. He also founded the British toy company Meccano Ltd in 1908, and launched a monthly publication, Meccano Magazine in 1916.

An inventor is a person who creates or discovers a new method, form, device or other useful means that becomes known as an invention. The word inventor comes from the Latin verb invenire, invent-, to find. The system of patents was established to encourage inventors by granting limited-term, limited monopoly on inventions determined to be sufficiently novel, non-obvious, and useful. Although inventing is closely associated with science and engineering, inventors are not necessarily engineers nor scientists.

A politician is a person active in party politics, or a person holding or seeking office in government. Politicians propose, support and create laws or policies that govern the land and, by extension, its people. Broadly speaking, a "politician" can be anyone who seeks to achieve political power in any bureaucratic institution.

Engineering applied science

Engineering is the application of knowledge in the form of science, mathematics, and empirical evidence, to the innovation, design, construction, operation and maintenance of structures, machines, materials, devices, systems, processes, and organizations. The discipline of engineering encompasses a broad range of more specialized fields of engineering, each with a more specific emphasis on particular areas of applied mathematics, applied science, and types of application. See glossary of engineering.

Contents

Hornby's inventions and initiatives made him a millionaire in the 1930s, and he entered politics in 1931 when he was elected as a Conservative MP for the Everton constituency. Hornby's legacy has persisted long after his death with enthusiasts all over the world still building Meccano models and collecting his toys. The 150th anniversary of Hornby's birth was celebrated in Liverpool and Brighton on 15 May 2013.

Conservative Party (UK) Political party in the United Kingdom

The Conservative Party, officially the Conservative and Unionist Party, is a centre-right political party in the United Kingdom. The governing party since 2010, it is the largest in the House of Commons, with 313 Members of Parliament, and also has 249 members of the House of Lords, 18 members of the European Parliament, 31 Members of the Scottish Parliament, 12 members of the Welsh Assembly, eight members of the London Assembly and 9,008 local councillors.

Liverpool Everton was a borough constituency represented in the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It elected one Member of Parliament (MP) by the first past the post system of election.

Biography

Born on 15 May 1863 at 77 Copperas Hill, Liverpool, Lancashire, Hornby was the son of John Oswald Hornby, a provision merchant and his wife Martha Hornby (née Thomlinson), though this date has been questioned. It is the date on his birth certificate, but the entry in the family bible in his mother's handwriting gives the date as 2 May. [1] At the age of sixteen, Hornby left school and started working as a cashier in his father's business. On 15 January 1887 he married a schoolteacher Clara Walker Godefroy, the daughter of a customs officer and they had two sons, Roland and Douglas, and a daughter, Patricia. When his father died in 1899, his father's business was closed and Hornby became a bookkeeper for David Hugh Elliot who ran a meat importing business in Liverpool.

Lancashire County of England

Lancashire is a ceremonial county in North West England. The administrative centre is Preston. The county has a population of 1,449,300 and an area of 1,189 square miles (3,080 km2). People from Lancashire are known as Lancastrians.

Merchant businessperson who trades in commodities that were produced by others

A merchant is a person who trades in commodities produced by other people. Historically, a merchant is anyone who is involved in business or trade. Merchants have been known for as long as industry, commerce, and trade have existed. During the 16th-century, in Europe, two different terms for merchants emerged: One term, meereniers, described local traders such as bakers, grocers, etc.; while a new term, koopman, described merchants who operated on a global stage, importing and exporting goods over vast distances, and offering added value services such as credit and finance.

Cashier person who handles the exchanging of money for goods at a store

A retail cashier or simply a cashier is a person who handles the cash register at various locations such as the point of sale in a retail store. The most common use of the title is in the retail industry, but this job title is also used in the context of accountancy for the person responsible for receiving and disbursing money or within branch banking in the United Kingdom for the job known in the United States as a bank teller.

After experimenting with new ideas in his home workshop, Hornby began making toys for his sons in 1899 with pieces he cut from sheet metal. He built models of bridges, trucks and cranes, although the pieces they were made from were not interchangeable. The breakthrough came when Hornby realised that if he could make separate, interchangeable parts that could be bolted together, any model could be built from the same components. The key inventive step was the realisation that regular perforations in the structural pieces could be used, not only to join them together with nuts and bolts, but also to journal  – act as a bearing for – axles and shafts. This made the construction of complex mechanisms relatively simple. He started making metal strips by hand from copper sheets. The strips were half an inch wide with holes for bolts spaced at half inch intervals. Initially he made the nuts and bolts himself, but he soon found an alternate source of supply.

Workshop room or building, with tools, used to repair or make goods

Beginning with the Industrial Revolution era, a workshop may be a room, rooms or building which provides both the area and tools that may be required for the manufacture or repair of manufactured goods. Workshops were the only places of production until the advent of industrialization and the development of larger factories. In the 20th and 21st century, many Western homes contain a workshop in the garage, basement, or an external shed. Home workshops typically contain a workbench, hand tools, power tools and other hardware. Along with their practical applications for repair goods or do small manufacturing runs, workshops are used to tinker and make prototypes.

Sheet metal metal formed by an industrial process into thin, flat pieces

Sheet metal is metal formed by an industrial process into thin, flat pieces. Sheet metal is one of the fundamental forms used in metalworking and it can be cut and bent into a variety of shapes. Countless everyday objects are fabricated from sheet metal. Thicknesses can vary significantly; extremely thin sheets are considered foil or leaf, and pieces thicker than 6 mm (0.25 in) are considered plate steel or "structural steel."

Interchangeable parts are parts (components) that are, for practical purposes, identical. They are made to specifications that ensure that they are so nearly identical that they will fit into any assembly of the same type. One such part can freely replace another, without any custom fitting, such as filing. This interchangeability allows easy assembly of new devices, and easier repair of existing devices, while minimizing both the time and skill required of the person doing the assembly or repair.

Frank Hornby's 1901 patent number GB190100587A for what later became known as Meccano Hornby pt1901.jpg
Frank Hornby's 1901 patent number GB190100587A for what later became known as Meccano

By the end of 1900 Hornby had built a set of parts he considered worth marketing. On advice, he patented his invention in January 1901 as "Improvements in Toy or Educational Devices for Children and Young People", but not without first having to borrow £5 from his employer, David Elliot, to cover the costs.

Marketing is the study and management of exchange relationships. Marketing is the business process of creating relationships with and satisfying customers. With its focus on the customer, marketing is one of the premier components of business management.

Patent set of exclusive rights granted by a sovereign state to an inventor or their assignee so that he has a temporary monopoly

A patent is a form of intellectual property. A patent gives its owner the right to exclude others from making, using, selling, and importing an invention for a limited period of time, usually twenty years. The patent rights are granted in exchange for an enabling public disclosure of the invention. In most countries patent rights fall under civil law and the patent holder needs to sue someone infringing the patent in order to enforce his or her rights. In some industries patents are an essential form of competitive advantage; in others they are irrelevant.

Pound sterling official currency of the United Kingdom and other territories

The pound sterling, commonly known as the pound and less commonly referred to as sterling, is the official currency of the United Kingdom, Jersey, Guernsey, the Isle of Man, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, the British Antarctic Territory, and Tristan da Cunha. It is subdivided into 100 pence. A number of nations that do not use sterling also have currencies called the pound.

During 1901 Hornby began looking for companies to manufacture his product, but it was poorly finished and did not attract much attention. Still having to support his family on the small wage he earned, Hornby did not have much time to market his invention. Fortunately, his employer saw potential in what Hornby was doing and offered him some vacant premises next to the office where he worked to pursue his ideas. With this move, Elliot and Hornby became partners.

Wage Reimbursement paid by an employer to an employee

A wage is monetary compensation paid by an employer to an employee in exchange for work done. Payment may be calculated as a fixed amount for each task completed, or at an hourly or daily rate, or based on an easily measured quantity of work done.

Partnership Arrangement in which parties agree to cooperate to advance their mutual interests

A partnership is an arrangement where parties, known as partners, agree to cooperate to advance their mutual interests. The partners in a partnership may be individuals, businesses, interest-based organizations, schools, governments or combinations. Organizations may partner to increase the likelihood of each achieving their mission and to amplify their reach. A partnership may result in issuing and holding equity or may be only governed by a contract.

Mechanics Made Easy

Hornby now called his construction toy "Mechanics Made Easy" and after receiving a positive endorsement from professor Henry Selby Hele-Shaw, then Head of the Engineering Department at Liverpool University, Hornby managed to secure contracts with outside manufacturers to supply the parts for his construction sets. With the financial assistance of his partner, "Mechanics Made Easy" sets went on sale in 1902.

Each set had only 16 different parts with a leaflet detailing the construction of 12 models. In 1903, 1,500 sets were sold, although no profit was made. New parts were continually being introduced and in 1904, six sets, packed in tin boxes with instruction manuals in French and English, became available. In 1905 two new sets were introduced and in 1906, for the first time, a small profit was made.

By 1907 Hornby's part suppliers could not meet the demand. This prompted Hornby to quit his job with Elliot and find suitable premises to begin manufacturing his own parts. He secured a three-year lease on a workshop in Duke Street, by Dukes Terrace in the Rope Walks area of Liverpool, and with the help of a loan granted to Hornby and Elliot for machinery and wages, they were manufacturing their own parts by June 1907.

Meccano

In September 1907, Hornby registered his famous "Meccano" trade mark and used this name on all new sets. In order to raise more capital to invest in a larger factory and plant, a company had to be created. This led to the formation of Meccano Ltd on 30 May 1908. Elliot had decided not to join the new company, leaving Hornby as the sole proprietor. The Meccano factory was relocated to West Derby Road in Liverpool, and in 1910 the famous "MECCANO" logo was commissioned. Meccano Ltd's turnover for the 1910 financial year was £12,000.

Meccano was exported to many countries and in 1912, Hornby and his son, Roland, formed Meccano (France) Ltd in Paris to manufacture Meccano. An office was also opened in Berlin, Germany and Märklin began to manufacture Meccano under licence. Hornby also started importing clockwork motors from Märklin.

In order to keep pace with demand, a new factory was built in Binns Road, Liverpool. By September 1914 the Binns Road Factory was in full production and became the company headquarters for over 60 years.

Other initiatives

In addition to Meccano, Hornby developed and manufactured a number of other model kits and toys, including:

In 1916, Hornby launched a monthly publication, Meccano Magazine , which remained in circulation for over sixty years, and in 1930 he formed the Meccano Guild, an amalgamation of Meccano clubs from all over the world.

Member of Parliament and final years

By the 1930s, Hornby had become a millionaire. He owned a mansion Quarry Brook in Maghull (his first house in Maghull was the Hollies in Station Road), and was chauffeured to Binns Road every day by limousine. In 1931 he entered politics when he was elected as a Conservative MP for the Everton constituency. He left the running of the company to his co-Directors and staff. But he did not stay in politics long – he resigned his parliamentary seat before the 1935 General Election.

Hornby died of a chronic heart condition complicated by diabetes in Maghull, near Liverpool, Lancashire,on 21 September 1936. He is buried in the grounds of St Andrew's Church, Maghull. His elder son Roland took over as Chairman of Meccano Ltd.

Hornby's legacy lives on today with thousands of enthusiasts all over the world still building Meccano models, running Hornby Train sets and collecting Dinky Toys. In his homeplace of Maghull there is a local Wetherspoons pub named after him, The Frank Hornby.

150th anniversary

Poster for the 2013 Heritage Lottery Fund-supported anniversary project FH150 Poster A4.jpg
Poster for the 2013 Heritage Lottery Fund-supported anniversary project

The 150th anniversary of Frank Hornby's birth fell on 15 May 2013, [2] and festivities were held by the National Museums Liverpool and the Frank Hornby Charitable Trust, Maghull, and by the Brighton Toy and Model Museum. [3] [4] [5]

Google also celebrated the 150th Anniversary with a Google Doodle on their UK homepage on 15 May 2013. [6] [7]

Related Research Articles

Meccano is a model construction system created in 1898 by Frank Hornby in Liverpool, United Kingdom. The system consists of reusable metal strips, plates, angle girders, wheels, axles and gears, and plastic parts that are connected together using nuts and bolts. It enables the building of working models and mechanical devices. Meccano maintains a manufacturing facility in Calais, France.

Toy Thing to be played with

A toy is an item that is used in play, especially one designed for such use. Playing with toys can be an enjoyable means of training young children for life in society. Different materials like wood, clay, paper, and plastic are used to make toys. Many items are designed to serve as toys, but goods produced for other purposes can also be used. For instance, a small child may fold an ordinary piece of paper into an airplane shape and "fly it". Newer forms of toys include interactive digital entertainment. Some toys are produced primarily as collectors' items and are intended for display only.

Maghull town and civil parish in the Metropolitan Borough of Sefton, in Merseyside, England

Maghull is a town and civil parish in Sefton, Merseyside. Historically in Lancashire, the town is north of Liverpool and south of Ormskirk in West Lancashire. The area also contains HM Prison Kennet and Ashworth Hospital.

Erector Set brand of metal toy construction set

Erector Set is a brand of metal toy construction sets, originally patented by Alfred Carlton Gilbert and first sold by his company, the Mysto Manufacturing Company of New Haven, Connecticut in 1913. In 1916, the company was reorganized as the A.C. Gilbert Company.

Dinky Toys was the brand name for a range of die-cast zamac zinc alloy miniature vehicles produced by Meccano Ltd. They were made in England from 1934 to 1979, at a factory in Binns Road in Liverpool. Dinky Toys were among the most popular diecast vehicles ever made - predating other popular diecast marques, including Corgi, Matchbox and Mattel's Hot Wheels.

Hornby Railways is a British model railway brand. Its roots date back to 1901, when founder Frank Hornby received a patent for his Meccano construction toy. The first clockwork train was produced in 1920. In 1938, Hornby launched its first 00 gauge train. In 1964, Hornby and Meccano were bought by their competitor, Tri-Ang, and sold on when Tri-ang went into receivership. Hornby Railways became independent in the 1980s, and became listed on the London Stock Exchange, but due to recent financial troubles, reported in June 2017, is presently majority owned by turnaround specialist Phoenix Asset Management.

Tri-ang Railways was a British manufacturer of toy trains, one of the elements of the Lines Bros Ltd company who traded using the brands Tri-ang, Minic, Pedigree, and Frog. The Tri-ang Railways name was dropped a few years after Lines Bros took over the Hornby name although the majority of the trains were still the original Tri-ang models.

Die-cast toy

The term die-cast toy here refers to any toy or collectible model produced by using the die casting method of putting molten lead or zinc alloy in a mold to produce a particular shape. Such toys are made of metal, with plastic, rubber, glass, or other machined metal parts. Wholly plastic toys are made by a similar process of injection moulding, but the two methods are distinct because of the properties of the materials.

Meccano Ltd was a British toy company established in 1908 by Frank Hornby in England to manufacture and distribute Meccano and other model toys and kits created by the company. During the 1920s and 1930s it became the biggest toy manufacturer in the United Kingdom and produced three of the most popular lines of toys in the twentieth century: Meccano, Hornby Trains and Dinky Toys.

Lines Bros

Lines Bros Ltd was a British toy manufacturer of the 20th century, operating under the Tri-ang Toys brand name.

<i>Meccano Magazine</i> English hobby magazine

Meccano Magazine was an English monthly hobby magazine published by Meccano Ltd between 1916 and 1963, and by other publishers between 1963 and 1981. The magazine was initially created for Meccano builders, but it soon became a general hobby magazine aimed at "boys of all ages".

Spot-On models, was a brand name for a line of diecast toy cars made by Tri-ang from 1959 through about 1967. They were manufactured in 1:42 scale in Belfast, Northern Ireland, of the United Kingdom. Competition for Spot-On in the British Isles were Corgi Toys and Dinky Toys. The line was particularly British and rarely produced marques from other countries.

Maghull railway station

Maghull railway station is a railway station in Maghull, a suburb of Liverpool, England. It is situated on the Ormskirk branch of the Northern Line of the Merseyrail network. As of 2013/14 it is the tenth busiest station on the Merseyrail network and the busiest station to not provide any interchange between any other services.

G&R Wrenn was a toy company specialising in the manufacture of model railways. It was founded in 1950 by George & Richard Wrenn.

Bayko

Bayko was an English building model construction toy invented by Charles Plimpton, an early plastics engineer and entrepreneur in Liverpool. First marketed in Britain it was soon exported throughout the British Commonwealth and became a world wide brand between 1934 and 1967. The name derived from Bakelite, one of the world's first commercial plastics that was originally used to manufacture many of the parts. Bayko was one of the world's earliest plastic toys to be marketed.

Lesney Products & Co. Ltd. was a British manufacturing company responsible for the conception, manufacture, and distribution of die-cast toys under the "Matchbox" name.

Thomas & Friends merchandise has been produced to capitalize on the success of the television series Thomas & Friends. Whilst merchandise was produced alongside due to the popularity of the first of The Railway Series books by the Rev. W. Awdry since 1945, and the original broadcast of the television series in 1984 in the United Kingdom, large numbers of manufacturers have sought to produce Thomas-branded items after the television series was broadcast in America and Japan.

Brighton Toy and Model Museum Toy museum, Model museum in East Sussex, England

Brighton Toy and Model Museum is an independent toy museum situated in Brighton, East Sussex. Its collection focuses on toys and models produced in the UK and Europe up until the mid-Twentieth Century, and occupies four thousand square feet of floor space within four of the early Victorian arches supporting the forecourt of Brighton railway station. Founded in 1991, the museum holds over ten thousand toys and models, including model train collections, puppets, Corgi, Dinky, Budgie Toys,construction toys and radio-controlled aircraft.

<i>James Mays Toy Stories</i> television series

James May's Toy Stories is a television series presented by James May. The series was commissioned for BBC Two from Plum Pictures. The first episode, "Airfix", was broadcast on BBC Two at 8:00 pm on Tuesday 27 October 2009. In later years, three specials were made for the Christmas seasons, along with a follow-up to the sixth episode.

Lintoy was a brand of die cast toys produced in the 1970s and 1980s from Hong Kong, owned by a man named David Lin.

References

  1. May, James (2009). Toy Stories. London: Conway. p. 54. ISBN   9781844861071.
  2. "Toy story: Heritage project helps mark Frank Hornby's 150th anniversary in 2013 - Heritage Lottery Fund". Hlf.org.uk. 2012-12-18. Retrieved 2013-05-15.
  3. "BBC News — Hornby 150th anniversary celebrations get under way". Bbc.co.uk. 2013-02-23. Retrieved 2013-05-15.
  4. "Toy story: Frank Hornby anniversary — ITV News". Itv.com. 2013-02-23. Retrieved 2013-05-15.
  5. "Meccano founder Frank Hornby's 150th anniversary marked". bbc.co.uk. 2013-05-15. Retrieved 2013-05-15.
  6. Matilda, Battersby (15 May 2013). "Google Doodle celebrates visionary toy maker Frank Hornby's 150 birthday". The Independent . Retrieved 15 May 2013.
  7. "Frank Hornby's 150th Birthday". Google. 15 May 2013. Retrieved 16 May 2013.
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Derwent Hall Caine
Member of Parliament for Liverpool, Everton
1931  1935
Succeeded by
Bertie Victor Kirby