A Short History of the LEGO Brick (1949-Today) PART TWO

In Part One of this mini-history-lesson, we saw what the very first plastic Lego bricks looked like, and we got all the way into the early 1960's, as the first tubes began to appear.  Let's pick up where we left off...

Note: Everything from this point onward will be ABS plastic, which is still in use today.

7) 2x4 Brick (Samsonite) 1961-1970
Lego invades America!  The Samsonite company (yes, as in luggage) held the license to sell Lego in North America, and they also produced the bricks they sold.  On the left is the logo that only Samsonite used (called the "Open O"), but there were also some oddities, such as the normal logo slipping in (as seen in the brick on the right, which was taken from a set that we have looked at here, from 1966).
Samsonite was infamous for having much less quality control than the Lego group is famous for.  You can see some pretty strange examples out there, but here is an example from my own collection, where the logo begins to be less than straight:
These bricks all say "Pat Pend." like we talked about in Part One.

8) 2x4 Brick (with Flowrib) circa 1966 to pre-1974
The "flowrib" term refers to the horizontal bar that intersects the tubes, on the inside of the brick.  Evidently it was an experiment in strengthening the design.
Now the water begins to get a bit murkier, because we are throwing a new wrench into the machine:  "Pat Pend. Obscured."  At some unidentified point, Lego was granted their patent, but as we said last time, existing supplies were used up, rather than thrown out.  Also, Lego preferred to alter existing molds that still had life left in them, rather than make new ones.  The solution was to obscure the Pat Pend on the mold, or grind it out, if you will.  The result was a blob where the words used to be.  Here is an extreme close-up of the insides of the above right brick:
Interestingly, you can still see the shapes of the letters when magnified, although to the unaided eye, they really look like blobs.
It's generally agreed on, or at least steadfastly believed by several collectors, that "Pat Pend." pretty much was gone by the year 1974.  Molds wear out eventually, after all.  This will come into play in our next category:

9) 2x4 Brick (Slit Tubes with Sidebars) pre-1974 to 1979
By now, you begin to definitely see the overlap I was referring to in Part One, and why the years can't always be written in stone.  This new design of brick, with slotted tubes and "sidebars" along the sides of the brick's interior, can be found saying "Pat Pend," with the Pat Pend obscured, and completely without the Pat Pend at all, indicating we are finally past that time period.

10) 2x4 Brick (no Pat Pend, no Part ID#) circa 1980-1984
Now we can pick up a little bit of steam, because the changes are slowing down.  This early-80's brick is past the point of patents, but the sidebars have gone away temporarily.

11) 2x4 Brick (Cross Support with Sidebars, no Part ID#) circa 1985-1990
For the next five years, Lego reinstated the sidebars, and for the first time, added a "Cross Support," a wall that passes through the middle tube, and provides strength.  

12) 2x4 Brick (Cross Support with Sidebars, "3001" Part ID#) 1990-CURRENT
The last change that was made to the beloved 2x4 brick was the inclusion of 3001, which is the Lego group's part number for this brick.  

My goal was to document the "major changes" in the history of the brick, and as we have seen, there are several variables that can create even more variants.  We never even approached the subject of Mold Numbers, which are also stamped into the bricks, and can be seen in some of the photos! 

A Word on "Test Bricks"
One of the extremely helpful collectors I communicated with was mpfirnhaber, who can be found on the forums at Brickset.  He was kind enough to sell me the "sideways logo" bricks we looked at last time, as well as help me correct a some errors in the dates I had researched.  He included a "test brick" that blew me away.  He wrote, and I quote:

"The C brick was made by the Bayer plastics group in Germany. They supplied ABS pellets to Lego for many years. The bricks were made to test color consistency, clutch strength, plastic strengths, and other things. These C bricks come in tons of different colors - many that have never been used by Lego." 

Wow! That is pretty sweet, eh?  If you want to see many more test bricks, including "marbled" or "swirled" ones, check out his amazing Flickr page in the links below:
WoutR's Flickr Page (browse by album to see chronological brick history)


Anonymous said...

Hi there, I have read your history of lego and many thanks. It gave me a lot of inside information. I like to mention that in Europa there was a more or less same situation as Samsonite, called Minitalia. You can google for more information about this Lego. Greetings from the Netherlands.

Sampoerna Quatrain said...

Thanks for your comment! I'm glad it was helpful. That was my complete goal! I was trying to put information together from a lot of different sources, and it needs to be in one place!

ziljian said...

This was very helpful an informative. I got to know more about the play toy I love in return granted me more appreciation towards it. Also, this helped me a lot in completing my school assignment. Thank you very much. Cheers!

Dave Koert said...

Thanks for this, I found a bunch of old Samsonite bricks at the thrift store today and was looking for info. Found some marbled bricks too with 2 colours mixed together on one brick. I live in Stratford, Ontario and I find lots of cool old bricks from there still today

Sampoerna Quatrain said...

@Dave Koert - That's awesome! I recently found a large amount of Samsonite bricks too, but they were very unfortunately TRASHED. Sounds like you have a great area to search. Hold onto those marbled bricks for sure!

Anonymous said...

I would love to see an analysis on the various mold/slot numbers and the different configurations of displaying those numbers.

Some appear to be to the left of the brick, some to the right, some have numbers in the tubes.

Sampoerna Quatrain said...

@Anonymous - I took so long to answer because I'm (still) trying to find a site I'd seen long ago that I thought had lots of info about mold numbers and such. It's out there.

WRme2 said...

The "flowrib" was not intended as an experiment in strengthening the design. The flowrib provides a channel for the liquid plastic to flow through during moulding. It was needed on this brick design because the injection point (pip) on the mold was on the short side of the brick. Without this channel, it would probably have been much more difficult to get the mold to fill evenly during production of the brick. With this flowrib, the liquid can speed to the other side of the mould cavity and then spread sideways into the tubes and walls.

Sampoerna Quatrain said...

@WRme2 - That's interesting, thank you! My question next is, why was it done away with? Was this due to technological improvements in the equipment?

vstarvan said...

Thank you for this summary, I've recently gotten a hold of some vintage LEGO and your page has been really helpful in identifying them. I wanted to share that not all Samsonite bricks are ABS, as some of my pieces with the "Open O" are made with CA. Another oddity you might find interesting is that I have a 1x6 brick with both versions of the logo printed on it; 4 studs with the "Open O", and 2 studs with the normal logo.

Sampoerna Quatrain said...

@vstarvan: That's awesome, thanks for your comments! Your 1x6 just further proves my theory that somehow they could replace individual studs when the molds began to wear out....which doesn't make lots of sense, but it's the only thing that explains those bricks!

Andrew said...

Can't see from picture, is this flowrib the same as on my bricks? Going longways. Not seen tubes with slits, is this a USA thing? As I'm in Britain. Not 1st time using what I call cross-members, as bigger had for years.

Sampoerna Quatrain said...

Andrew: I sincerely doubt that the tubes with slits was specific to the United States, especially as they weren't being produced here at that time!
As for the flowrib, you'll have to compare the photo to what you have. Look for a channel that goes behind the tubes (it is longways down the length of the brick) and you'll see it.