Spurred by a global economic crisis, Ole Kirk Kristiansen decides to switch to the production of toys and lays the cornerstone of what is to become a worldwide success. In October 1929, the Wall Street stock market in New York crashes with devastating consequences for the wider Western world. Companies collapse and industry has its back to the wall. Agriculture is hit even harder. The USA and UK place restrictions on imports, and this brings the crisis directly to the Danish farming community in 1930. Butter and pig meat prices fall sharply, and as these products represent a huge section of Danish exports, life becomes very difficult for Danish farmers. This also has serious consequences for Ole Kirk Kristiansen. Farmers and smallholders, his most important customers, can no longer afford to carry out carpentry and joinery work, and in 1931, he has no option but to let his last journeyman go.
Times of adversity
Reflecting the crisis in agriculture, his carpentry and joinery business is not doing well in 1932 and in the midst of his economic woes he loses his wife, and finds himself alone with four sons aged between 6 and 15 years. The future looks very bleak. Ole Kirk Kristiansen faces the fact that life is a gift, but at the same time can be challenging. A thought, which he often repeats to his children.
National Association for Danish Enterprise
The National Association for Danish Enterprise (Landsforeningen Dansk Arbejde) supports Ole Kirk Kristiansen´s business during the economic crisis and thus indirectly plays a part in the journey Ole Kirk takes transitioning from an ordinary carpentry business into a toy manufacturer. The association, established in 1908, has a purpose of promoting Danish manufacturing and the sale of Danish goods both in Denmark and abroad. Ole Kirk is a member of the association and in a members’ magazine he reads in an advice column the good sense in manufacturing readily marketable products, such as stepladders, ironing boards and other utility items, and something, which will radically change his future, toys. In 1934, when LEGO® wooden toys were first demonstrated at a Danish trade fair in Frederica, the National Association for Danish Enterprise also supported Ole Kirk Kristiansen by giving him free exhibition space.
Keeping up spirits
Although the economic crisis brings tough times, and misfortune is sometimes great, Ole Kirk Kristiansen manages to retain his positive approach to life. In the face of adversity and obstacle, Ole Kirk Kristiansen generates both enthusiasm over new possibilities and a good portion of humor. “Yes, Christiansen had a natural gift of humour – and he knew how to use it,” says his first apprentice, Viggo Jørgensen. Another (tall) employee relates how Ole Kirk Kristiansen one day tells him: “We don’t want you any longer!” Shocked, the employee thinks he is being sacked. “Easy does it – I just meant that you’re long (tall) enough,” smiles Ole Kirk Kristiansen.