You can cut out enough strips yourself to make a small model. You can keep pegging away until you have made quite a supply of strips, and you might even make screws, and nuts, and rods, and wheels, and pulleys, and other things for building such an outfit; but it takes money to rent a factory building, no matter how small, and get the tools to make goods on a large enough scale so that they can be sold and earn a profit. Frank Hornby soon found out that after he had invented his toy the hardest problem of his life confronted him. Thousands and thousands of good inventions have been made which are never heard of because the inventor was not a good enough business man, and did not have a character which made people have confidence enough in him, to invest money in his invention or loan him, personally, money for carrying on his work of manufacturing and selling.
Thanks to early Christian training, clean living, right thinking, thrift, and a conscience that kept him true and strong under all temptations and hardships, Frank Hornby had developed a character, which today the American bankers call "the finest kind of a financial risk." In order that he should not be compelled to ask men to invest or loan money wholly on his own judgment, Frank Hornby submitted photographs and drawings of his model to the distinguished scientist, Dr. Hele-Shaw, Professor of Engineering at the Walker Engineering Laboratories, University College, Liverpool. Professor Hele-Shaw was not only a kindly man, but he was also a very wise man, and a great scientist.
As soon as he studied these photographs and drawings he saw that here was a toy, which was not only very interesting, but extremely educational. He saw that no boy could play with Frank Hornby's Meccano without being trained in the principles of engineering. He saw that a boy could learn unconsciously the great principles of mechanics from this little toy. The boy could learn the principles of an arch, just such an arch as is used in all bridgework, and in the gables of the roofs of houses and buildings, and in other forms of building construction. By putting these little Meccano parts together he quickly saw that this Meccano toy could teach boys the principle of the inclined plane, the principle of the pulley, where a man can pull up several times his own weight by the use of pulleys.
Froebel's work has changed a great deal of the educational system of the public schools. In the book called "Froebel's Occupations" Herbert Spencer, the great English educator, is quoted as saying, "Almost invariably children show a strong tendency to make, to build; a propensity which, if duly encouraged and directed, will not only prepare the way for scientific conceptions, but will develop those powers of manipulation in which most people are so deficient." Horace Mann has become an honored name all over the world because he went a step further than Froebel and taught boys and girls too big for kindergarten, too big even sometimes for graded schools, how to do things with their hands, how to work in carpenter shops, and art studios, and mills and printing offices, and all kinds of places where they will have to work when they get out of school and start to earning their own living.
of teaching has developed into our present Manual Training Schools. He
was such a great educator that he has influenced many of the public schools.
Only recently a professor at Yale University, in an article published
in the Century Magazine, was bewailing the fact that the whole tendency
in American education was to study and do practical things rather than
classical things. The scientific schools are growing in enrollment everywhere,
while the classical schools are falling off in enrollment or are just
able to hold their own. That shows that the kindergarten idea of Froebel,
and the manual training idea of Horace Mann, and the technical work of
Stevens, and the founders of such great schools as the Massachusetts Institute
of Technology, Pratt Institute in
Hele-Shaw was himself a famous inventor, a dreamer in educational matters;
he wrote back to Frank Hornby a very interesting letter telling him how
pleased he was with his Mecca- no photographs and models, and saying that
they were as good as a fairy story, and that as soon as Frank had them
for sale, be sure to let him buy a set for his little boy. What a fine
thing it was to write a letter of that kind to this struggling inventor!
With that letter Frank Hornby was able to interest some men in putting
money into a small manufacturing business for the purpose of manufacturing
Meccano and putting it on the market so that every boy could have an outfit
to play with.