A carpenter by trade, Ole Kirk Christiansen turned his tools to making wooden toys in Billund when business was slow during a Depression-era slump in 1932. Christiansen came up with the business name Lego, a contraction of leg godt, meaning ‘play well’ in Danish (in a beautiful piece of symmetry, lego can mean ‘I put together’ in Latin). By the late 1940s Lego became the first Danish company to acquire a plastics-injection moulding machine for toy production and began making interlocking plastic blocks called ‘binding bricks’ – the forerunner of today’s Lego blocks.
In 1960 the wooden-toy warehouse went up in flames, and Lego decided to focus production on its plastic toys instead. Lego blocks soon became the most popular children’s toy in Europe – in 2000 Fortune magazine named the Lego brick 'toy of the century'.
The statistics are incredible: enough Lego has been produced to supply 102 bricks to every person on the planet.
The company (but not the theme park) is still owned by Ole Kirk’s descendants; primary concept and development work takes place at the Billund headquarters, and the small town is growing thanks to the influx of international workers.
In 2017, Lego House was built by the company to showcase the 'Home of the Brick'. There is a museum here tracing the company's rise.