Published online by Cambridge University Press: 30 June 2022
Meccano Ltd promoted a particular type of subjectivity: the ‘Meccano Boy’. This construction toy schooled the child in scientific education, social participation, civic roles, life within a profession and in building the material infrastructure of modernity. Playing with Meccano encouraged translation of an intangible idea represented in two dimensions into material forms through the production of three-dimensional compositions of machinery or models. We compare the legal interpretation of this form of play with its broader cultural significance in creating a base of socially connected consumers, orchestrated to extract commercial value from educational play. Meccano did not involve free play or simply making educational models. A toy for making toys, Meccano was marketed as training for adulthood. Through the establishment of Meccano guilds and the relevance of the Meccano Magazine, children, their fathers and a wider brotherhood were interpellated as active developers of Meccano. It was a brand and activity that Meccano designed for international appeal and where the child was happily engaged in play that supported a later life that contributed to international industrialisation.