Frank Hornby (15 May 1863 – 21 September 1936) was an English inventor, businessman and politician. He was a visionary in toy development and manufacture and produced three of the most popular lines of toys in the twentieth century: Meccano, Hornby Model Railways and Dinky Toys. He also founded the British toy company Meccano Ltd in 1908.
Hornby was born on 15 May 1863 in Liverpool.
In September 1907, Hornby registered his famous "Meccano" trade mark and used this name on all new sets. In order to raise more capital to invest in a larger factory and plant, a company had to be created. This lead to the formation of Meccano Ltd on 30 May 1908. Elliot had decided not to join the new company, leaving Hornby as the sole proprietor. The Meccano factory was relocated to West Derby Road in Liverpool, and in 1910 the famous "MECCANO" logo was commissioned. Meccano Ltd's turnover for the 1910 financial year was 12,000 pounds.
Meccano was exported to many countries and in 1912, Hornby and his son, Roland, formed Meccano (France) Ltd in Paris to manufacture Meccano. An office was also opened in Berlin, Germany and Märklin began to manufacture Meccano under licence. Hornby also started importing clockwork motors from Märklin.
In order to keep pace with demand, a new factory was built in Binns Road, Liverpool. By September 1914 the Binns Road Factory was in full production and became the company headquarters for over 60 years.
By the 1930s, Hornby had become a millionaire. He owned a mansion and was chauffeured to Binns Road every day by limousine. Hornby died of a chronic heart condition complicated by diabetes in Liverpool on 21 September 1936. His elder son Roland took over as Chairman of Meccano Ltd.
Hornby's legacy lives on today with thousands of enthusiasts all over the world still building Meccano models and running Hornby Train sets.
Images courtesy of Liverpool City Library and the Records Office and show production of Hornby train sets. The workers are almost entirely women with men seeming to be in supervisory/overseeing roles.