Could it be called a "factory"? A picture of this one room with Frank Hornby's one assistant, a girl, is shown opposite this page. The picture shows this one assistant packing the new toys in boxes. Compare it with the picture of the present packing room, with its hundreds of girls, following page 107. Frank Hornby with the little money that he had gathered together, rented a small room in Liverpool, and hired one girl to help him. He had made all of his patterns and went to different factories and had the various parts for his Meccano made. He had so little capital that practically none of the factories wanted to bother with such small orders as he could give.


It was only because of his earnestness and sincerity, and faith in the future of his invention, that the factories, out of sympathy and consideration for him, would bother to make the parts which were ordered in such small quantities that they would not be profitable for them to manufacture. A great many business men will help a boy or young man who shows the spirit of Frank Hornby, even though they lose money in trying to help him. They think back over the days when they were struggling and trying to get ahead, and think of some kind man who gave them a helping hand, and their hearts are softened, and their sympathies awakened, and so they want to lend a helping hand to the deserving, struggling young beginners. Frank Hornby saw that the parts were manufactured properly, and had them all sent to his little one room factory, where he and the girl who assisted him, put them into boxes, and then took those boxes around from one store to another to sell them in order to get the money to manufacture more.

At first only one store in all of Liverpool would handle this new constructiona1 toy.
They handled it because they were an educational house. Their name was Philip, Son Nephew. The leading member of this firm was Mr. Tom Philip, a man of sound business judgment. He appreciated the merit of Meccano even in its first crude form and gladly lent his great influence to help make Meccano a success. They took up the sale of Meccano because of the letter which Professor Hele-Shaw wrote to Frank Hornby.
This firm sold, the first year, a few outfits only, and in fact some of those were purchased by friends who knew how hard Hornby had worked to get his little enterprise started.

But the one big thing which was learned was, that those who bought Meccano and let their boys play with it, came back for more parts because the boys wanted to build bigger and always bigger things, and needed more parts to work with. That was the one thing that Frank Hornby was sure of from the very beginning, although other people doubted his wisdom. He felt sure that any boy, anywhere, had in his own heart enough inventive, creative natural inclination, so that, if he were put down in a desert, or a forest, or locked up in a dungeon, with these little strips, and wheels and rods, and screws, and pulleys, he could be happy because he could satisfy his own desires to build something interesting and difficult and in that way to grow in skill as a real engineer.

His judgment was proved to be sound. In the first Meccano outfits that were sold, the book of instructions showed only a few models. As you pick up the big, thick book of instructions which now goes with every original Meccano outfit, you cannot help but smile as you think of the little, thin, first Meccano book. This big book of instructions which the boy gets today is filled from cover to cover with all kinds of interesting models which boys have built. But the models shown in this book are not a hundredth part of the models that have been built and submitted by boys in America, Great Britain, France and
Germany, Australia, Italy, Russia. Turkey and every part of the world. In fact, the number of models that can be built from Meccano is unlimited.

Architects are now learning this fact, and are using Meccano for building models to submit when they are trying to get a contract for buildings or bridges, or other constructional work for which they are submitting drawings and plans. So great has been the demand for Meccano amongst other inventors, that Frank Hornby's company now manufactures an Inventor's Accessory Outfit, so that an inventor can put together these various parts of Meccano and build a model of the piece of machinery or the article that he is working on, and in that way experiment with a practical, working design before he goes to the great expense of building a real model of his invention. In taking this action, Frank Hornby shows his big heart, in going out to help other inventors who, like himself, are struggling to get ahead, just as he did through all the years when he was trying to make Meccano a success.

After the new outfits for Christmas, 1902, had been sold, it was learned that a great many more sets would be required for the next Christmas. Consequently a much larger number of Meccano outfits were prepared for Christmas, 1903. Messrs. Philip, Son & Nephew quickly sold out their 1903 supply. The other toy dealers woke up to the fact that this new constructional toy was going to be a great success. They had so many boys and parents asking for it, that they commenced to buy it. In a short time, Frank Hornby could not supply the demand for his new constructional toy. The business grew so rapidly in the next four or five years that it was almost as much of a hardship to supply the demand as it formerly had been to invent Meccano.

Because there were so many things to do, so many things to pay out money for, so many new ideas to incorporate, in order to make the outfit better each year, and there were so many salaries to pay to do the work over the whole twelve months when the business was all done, in those days, in the months of November and December. Sometimes it seemed as if the strain was too great, that the business would never get up to that point where Frank could make enough in November and December to pay all the manufacturing, and selling, and living expenses for the other ten months, and still show a profit. It was not long before Frank Hornby was paying people who worked for him higher salaries than he himself drew. But that is the way with the man who has invented something, and whose heart is in his work. His whole heart was in Meccano. He would have kept on with that manufacturing even though he had to go outside and work to get money enough to carry it on.

It was his "pet," his "hobby." It was like a child to him, which he could not and would not desert. But his friends stood by him until the tide was turned and the business began to show constantly increasing profits. Nor did those friends lose, because they shared in the profits when the business became a great success. Nobody can be around Frank Hornby today without realizing the bigness of his heart. His Berlin, Germany, branch had developed so rapidly that it was doing business not only throughout Germany, but in Austria, Italy, Russia, Turkey, and all through that part of Europe. It was a great business. The literature for the Berlin office had to be printed in twelve different languages. The salesmen who went out to call on the dealers and sell them Meccano had to be able to speak five or six different languages. When the war broke out, all of this business was confiscated, that is, taken right over by the German Government.

Yet, in telling about it, Frank Hornby did not express a single regret over his financial loss. He seemed to be very much distressed, however, because the English manager of his Berlin office had been interned-which is another way of saying "locked up"-as an "enemy" of Germany. That was the thing about which Frank Hornby was worrying. His heart went out to the man who had been helping him build up the business in that part of Europe. He did not think so much about the lost business as he did about the hardship, humiliation, and suffering which the man-his employee, but in reality his friend-was undergoing in Berlin.

previous chapter                                                                      next chapter