Then came the years of trial. None but a strong, stout heart could have endured and come through successfully after such waiting. Frank's father died. His business was closed out. Frank went to work for another provision house. The new firm imported American beef and meat and other food products from Armour & Company, Swift & Company and Morris & Company, the great Chicago, Omaha and Kansas City packers. For twenty-one long years Frank Hornby worked for this firm. He went there to work when he was twenty-four. Being a good singer, having a fine tenor voice, he was much sought after by church choirs. That brought him into contact with other musicians, and it was there that he met his wife-to-be. Meanwhile, Frank had become very much interested in the "Band of Hope'' movement.
In England, the "Band of Hope" is a temperance society, just as the White Ribbon is a temperance society in America. At first, the other boys made fun of him, and told him that he was no "goody- goody," and why should he be prominent in the "Band of Hope"? But as opposition always strengthens a strong boy, this ridicule of his pals merely made him more determined to make his work in the "Band of Hope" successful. So he went to work. He provided entertainment for the boys until finally he had a "Band of Hope" society of over three hundred boys, although he was little more than a boy himself. We think of the English as not having a sense of humor. Nevertheless, his great success in this "Band of Hope" work was due to his keen sense of humor, to his enjoyment of good fun.
Hence he mixed in with his comrades and his organized pleas for temperance, and for clean living, and for right thinking, and for conscientious doing, combined with entertainment of a clean sort, kept the rooms of his "Band of Hope" society packed on every open night. Sometimes the minister, being a little old and a little severe, would scowl at the entertainment that was given; sometimes he would object to the entertainers that were brought in from the outside, but nevertheless Frank Hornby was the ruling spirit and the real power in making this "Band of Hope" society in his church a great success which was long afterward spoken of. In this way he developed his ability as an organizer and gained experience, which was useful to him in later years. Every boy should strive to develop his ability as an organizer, and should, by actual practice among his comrades, try to gain their confidence and induce them to make him their leader.
By doing so he will acquire the power to lead men when he grows up. As the years went on, he was married. A son was born, then another son. Mr. Hornby, as he was then called, was looked upon as settled in his business. He had a trusted position with the firm of meat importers. Yet he was a boy at heart. He had never lost his interest in inventors, and in the desire to invent something, which would be useful, amusing, and at the same time teach boys things, which would be valuable for them to know. Nights and holidays he kept busy in his little workshop. How often do we look around us and see men thirty years old who seem to be tinkering away over some useless thing, which we do not understand. We laugh at them.
We poke fun at them to other people, yet so many times these same men are living through hardships, which would call for our real sympathy and admiration if we knew how bravely they were sticking to their tasks to accomplish the things which they set out to accomplish when they were boys. "Mike" Murphy (the greatest athletic trainer that America has ever produced) the man who trained the American teams that won the Olympic victories abroad, the man who became famous as the trainer of the great Yale football teams and later of the great Pennsylvania track teams -used to say "No matter how tired you are, remember that the other fellow is just as tired. If you think that you are 'all in/ remember that the other fellow is also just ready to drop.
If you think that you cannot take another step, grit your teeth and keep going, make a sprint even though it kills you, because that will take the heart out of your competitors. Never say die, never quit even though you are beaten. You can't tell what may happen. Even though you believe that you are beaten, you may not be; something may turn up, which will affect your competitor and let you come in ahead after all. Keep fighting every inch of the way clear to the tape." Frank Hornby kept fighting every inch of the way clear to the tape. He thought before he reached the goal that he was beaten, but trying to think of some-thing that would please his own little boys at last showed him the way to realize his ambitions. He was on a train going quite a long journey to visit his relatives. His wife and his two boys had gone on ahead. He was wondering what he could give them for Christmas. They too had been interested in working in his little shop and in seeing him work.
As he sped along on the journey, he did what all boys and most men do. He gazed out of the window, watching the scenery, and the various buildings and everything else of interest, as the train flew past. As he rumbled over the bridges, and saw the great derricks and cranes at work in building operations and saw the wagons and the various machines, and the factories along the way, he began to dream how as a boy he had so wanted to build a bridge, how he had wanted to build a crane which could lift things and swing them around and put them down somewhere else.
But to his practical mind, this seemed to be a negative or backwards training. So he thought how much better it would be if he could invent something that would make the boys think how to construct it, instead of how to tear it apart. He thought what a wonderful thing it would be if he could invent something with which a boy could build a train, or an engine, or a steamboat, or a bridge, or a windmill, or a railroad crane, or a locomotive, or any of the other fascinating mechanical things at which a boy stands in awe. But what do you suppose was the first thing he thought of building? He says it is the thing, which almost every boy wants to build first.
It was a crane, or derrick. Why do you suppose it is that a boy is so interested in a crane? Why is it that a boy will never get tired of watching a crane? Don't you suppose it is because every boy wants to be strong? Has he not read and been told about Samson and about all of the other great heroes who were mighty warriors and great, strong men; and as a little boy is he not always trying to lift things which nearly break his back, but which he is not able to budge? But how was he going to do it? After once getting the idea, he took out a pencil and paper and began to figure what could be done. He made little sketches of cranes. He thought, and thought, and thought, and at last an inspiration came to him. It flashed into his mind that if he could make metal strips of varying lengths and with some kind of a fastening to hold them together, these strips could be held in position to form the crane he was trying to build.
Strange as it may seem, Frank Hornby, although a poor student in mathematics, had always been mechanical and mathematical in his calculations. Possibly if he had had the right incentive and proper training as a boy, he would have been a great mathematician.
All the old inventive genius in him awoke. He kept puzzling and figuring and working enthusiastically over this problem, until he was almost carried past the station where he was going to visit his family and relatives. Gathering up his things, he hurriedly tumbled out of his compartment-for in England they have compartments in the trains, and not a long row of seats as in our American passenger cars-just in time to save himself from a bad fall as the train was gaining headway. Frank could hardly wait to get back home and into his little workshop. He obtained plain strips of copper, since copper is a soft metal and easy to work with, and set to work to build the strips in accordance with the little sketches he had made on the train. After he got them made, then came the question of how he could fasten them together.
This was easily solved where he wanted to join one strip to another in order to make a longer strip. But when he wanted to fasten two strips together at right angles, he had to do still more planning. He accomplished this by making an angle bracket with a hole in each side, so that the strips could be fastened together with it. He knew that to interest boys his new invention should be fastened together as nearly like a real crane as he could make it, so he decided to use real little nuts and bolts for this purpose. But where would he get at a small cost the little nuts and bolts for fastening these strips together? That also was a problem-to get the right kind of nuts and bolts. Finally in desperation he had to make them himself. Then he was able to take the strips, which he himself had cut out and made, with his two little boys enthusiastically helping him, and commence to actually put together the crane he had planned.
After Frank had put together the framework for his new crane, he found that he needed a pulley wheel for the jib and also some wheels for the crane itself, so that he could move it backwards and forwards and around when it was carrying a load. He also found that he needed some spindles, or rods, which would fit into the holes in the strips and on which he could place the wheels. So he went to a brass foundry with a pattern, which he had carefully worked out and had the pulleys, flanges and bush wheels made, as he wanted them. Then he got a clock maker to make him some cogwheels so that one would fit into the other. A little wheel into a big one, and the big one into a little one again, so that by turning a handle and applying a little power to the smallest wheel, he could raise ten or twenty times the weight, which was represented by the power, exerted on the handle.
You have often seen two men turning the crank at a big crane or derrick. They turn the handle around and around and wind a rope or chain over a spindle, lifting a big rock, or a timber or a steel girder or even a big safe that weighs many times what the men do; lifting it slowly but surely until it gets where they want it. Frank wanted a crank handle-so he bent one of the rods to form such a handle-and you will find in every Meccano outfit to-day one of these bent rods which is used as a crank handle.
When the first model of this first crane was completed, with its solid base and its long jib running up in the air, with the long cord running up to the pulley at the top of the jib and through the pulley down to the gear wheels; with the weights fastened to the hook attached to the other end of the cord, and the little crank in the base that could be turned and the weight lifted and the jib of the crane turned around and lowered so as to deposit the weight in any other p1ace-when this first model was finally finished, just think what joy came into that household. Frank Hornby was at last an inventor-he had invented something amusing, instructive, and educational. He had made something that his boys never wanted to stop playing with; something which boys all over the world would be just as crazy to play with.
But little did Frank Hornby think, as he admired his new invention, that a feature of far greater importance than anything he had yet discovered, was just ahead of him waiting for his alert mind to grasp it. His crane to him was wonderful-but it was nothing as compared to the greater discovery he was on the threshold of making. He admired his crane, his boys played with it, and after a time Frank decided that he would take it apart. So he removed the jib and the upper parts, leaving only the base with its four wheels. Then the wonderful feature that has made Meccano far more amusing, useful and instructive than any other constructional toy occurred to him. When he had removed the jib and the other upper parts of his crane, he discovered that he had left a small, four wheeled truck, and that by taking the strips of metal that had formed the jib, and fastening them together in another way, he could make a railroad track on which his four-wheel truck could run.
He got to thinking still further, to figuring and experimenting, and before very long he had used those same strips to make a small wheelbarrow, a little wagon, a chair and a table and many other simple little things of that kind. It was wonderful how all these years of working and thinking and dreaming seemed to gather together and pour all of their experience into this new toy. His active mind commenced to work all over again.
He saw visions of great immense bridges, steam and electric locomotives, railroad trains, automobiles, windmills, saw mills, derricks, pile drivers and hundreds-yes thousands-of different great machines and structures that boys were always marveling at, all of which could be reproduced in a small size with the various length strips, angle brackets, nuts and bolts, rods, wheels, gears and pulleys that he had first used in the construction of that simple little crane. This inter-change-ability feature of Frank Hornby's new invention required further thought, and more planning, but Frank quickly saw its immense possibilities, and also saw that in order to have all his parts interchangeable, the holes would have to be all the same size, all the same distance apart, all placed in the same position on every part that he was to use. To say it in just a little different way, all the parts should be interchangeable-they should be constructed so they could be changed around and used in more different ways.
That is what makes Meccano such an amusing, interesting and instructive toy. It is because all the parts are interchangeable so that you can use the same parts in many different ways and build so many more different things. Of course, this was only the beginning of the idea, but it has developed to such a great extent that to-day the boy who owns a Meccano outfit can build a working model of any mechanical, electrical or structural machine or structure he has ever seen. And furthermore, the models he can build closely resemble the actual machines or structures, because soon after Frank's first experiments with copper strips, he discovered that if he used strips of shining steel instead, they would be stronger, and would build bigger and stronger things, and would more closely resemble the big steel girders and beams that real engineers and contractors use.
And so strips
of shining steel are furnished today in every Meccano outfit.
But at that
time, he just had his model. The real problem was how to make more models
and more parts and in such a way that he could sell them and make money
from them and make a success of his invention.