A History of Tri-ang and Lines Brothers Ltd: The rise and fall of the Worlds largest Toy making Company

The toy industry and its close relationship with children’s artefacts and equipment made a significant contribution to the light industries which came to increasing prominence in the British economy over the twentieth century as traditional heavy manufacturing declined. The demand for toys, both national and international, accelerated after the Great Exhibition of 1851 and two brothers, George and Joseph Lines, were among the most prominent of the manufacturers to emerge in the Victorian period. However, it was Lines Brothers Ltd., formally incorporated in 1919 by Joseph’s three sons, which very quickly established itself as the leading British toy company, overcoming the vicissitudes of depression and world war to become the world’s largest toy manufacturer by the 1950s. With operations in many parts of the world it was arguably the world’s first multi-national toy company, enjoying something of a golden age before collapsing spectacularly in the face of intensifying international competition and a changing economic climate. This is the fascinating story of a family business whose iconic Tri-ang trademark was universally recognised and whose most famous products included model railways, Spot-on and Minic cars, soft toys, Pedigree prams, dolls’ houses, Scalextric, and Cindy dolls. It is a serious economic, business and industrial history, touching on important themes such as the interplay between government and business, the nature of entrepreneurship, the significance of company culture and organisation, and the changing nature of childhood. Above all, it is a story of strong personalities, familial tensions, and an underlying determination to bring delight to children.

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