Hornby, Frank

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b. 15 May 1863 Liverpool, England
d. 21 September 1936 Liverpool, England
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English toy manufacturer and inventor of Meccano kits.
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Frank Hornby left school at the age of 16 and worked as a clerk, at first for his father, a provision merchant, and later for D.H.Elliott, an importer of meat and livestock, for whom he became Managing Clerk. As a youth he was interested in engineering and in his own small workshop he became a skilled amateur mechanic. He made toys for his children and c.1900 he devised a constructional toy kit consisting of perforated metal strips which could be connected by bolts and nuts. He filed a patent application in January 1901 and, having failed to interest established toy manufacturers, he set up a small business in partnership with his employer, D.H. Elliott, who provided financial support. The kits were sold at first under the name of Mechanics Made Easy, but by 1907 the name Meccano had been registered as a trade mark. The business expanded rapidly and in 1908 Elliott withdrew from the partnership and Hornby continued on his own account, the company being incorporated as Meccano Ltd. Although parts for Meccano were produced at first by various manufacturers, Hornby soon acquired premises to produce all the components under his own control, and between 1910 and 1913 he established his own factory on a 5-acre (2-hectare) site at Binn's Road, Liverpool. The Meccano Magazine, a monthly publication with articles of general engineering interest, developed from a newsletter giving advice on the use of Meccano, and from the first issue in 1916 until 1924 was edited by Frank Hornby. In 1920 he introduced the clockwork Hornby trains, followed by the electric version five years later. These were gauge "0" (1 1/4 in./32 mm); the smaller gauge "00", or Hornby Dublo, was a later development. Another product of Meccano Ltd was the series of model vehicles known as Dinky toys, introduced in 1934.
Frank Hornby served as a Member of Parliament for the Everton Division of Liverpool from 1931 to 1935.
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Principal Honours and Distinctions
MP, 1931–5.
Further Reading
D.J.Jeremy (ed.), 1984–6, Dictionary of Business Biography, Vol. 3, London, 345–9 (a useful biography).
Proceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers 127(1934):140–1 (describes the Binn's Road factory).
RTS

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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