We just called them "Plastic Bricks" as kids; I think the "American"
part is correct. Nope, not made anymore, and I sure do remember them.
My brother and I engineered "cannon" buildings with them; this was a
structure that had brick levers, and a semi-automatic "ammo" loading
system that placed a brick at a time in place, ready to fire.
We never did figure out how to make an automatic version, but many a
plastic brick fell victim to our cannon wars.
I also made "jets" with them, making it so you only had to hold it on
one brick on the top and one bottom brick, so it wouldn't fall apart.
I use LEGO (see rec.toys.lego) now, but it's not the same.
Ron Carter \ Director \ Center for the Study of Creative Intelligence
CSCI \ Denver, CO USA \ "To create... to build... and most of all, to have
rca...@nyx.cs.du.edu \ fun with LEGO (R) bricks!" - Builders Club Code
> Karl Snow <ks...@iguana.dsd.es.com> wrote:
> >When I was a boy in the 1950s I had some lego-like building bricks which were
> >called simply "American Plastic Bricks" (I think). I don't know if American
> >was the name of the company which made them or if it was just part of the name.
> >These bricks were made of hard plastic (and broke easily) and were red and
> >white. Does anyone know if these are still made ? Does anyone else remember
> >them ? Thank You,
I remember playing with these things for HOURS. I seem to recall that
they were described as having the same proportions as concrete building
blocks so that you could build a fairly accurate model house/garage
with them. I recall that my dad tried to do that. My memory fails here
and I don't remember if he really did build a scale model. I do know
that he still is using a full-size double-wide concrete block garage he
built in the late fifties...
I've attempted to crosspost this to rec.antiques, where there might
be some interest and information on the topic.
I don't know if these are still made, but last year my husband, the
Mad Erector Collector, found some in an antique store or at a flea
market (don't remember which). We've also run across old TinkerToys
(though we see more of those in the Midwest since they were made
there), and I've even found a few "tubes" of Block City, which seem
to be the things *I* remember playing with in about the period Karl
mentions. Block City blocks were all white, but had "coping strips"
and little window and door inserts in red and green. When I opened
one of the "tubes" we found (about the size of a roll of paper towels)
and pulled out a little green garage door, it was like Proust and
his madeleine -- instant timewarp back to being 8 years old! :-)
Here's a question for the net: does any one remember a special
kind of playset from the 50's -- no doubt the late 50's -- that
instead of being a farm or a fortress was a space station? I've
heard it was made by Superior, and it had a fence made of metal
sections that connected, and a building, some guns complete with
little pellets, probably some vehicles, and a lot of little
astronauts, male *and female*, with tiny clear-plastic removable
space helmets. This playset would no doubt be illegal now because
of all the pellets and space helmets that a kid might swallow!
Before they were American Plastic Bricks, they were wood! The wood and
platic ones were interchangable. In the early 60's they were bought
by ...... LEGO! Shortly thereafter, the Plastic Bricks were made with
Lego-like interlocking abilities, the scale of windows and doors was
adjusted down to approximately that of Lego building blocks. Following
all that, Legos kind-of took over and the APBs were discontinued.
I still have most of what was originally 3 sets #345 (345 pieces in
a large cardboard can ... the cans are gone, however). Interesting note:
the last can I bought had the interlocking bricks and downsized doors!
Alan C. Jones
Re the Superior Spaceport--no, I don't have one, but I DO have the
Superior Airport. The Spaceport has been in a toy magazine I suscribe to,
but the asking price was about $700....ouch!
At last someone else who _remembers_ and possibly _longs for_ American
I have been looking for these for the past 3-4 years, and have finally
had some success. (Yes, it's true, I played with them as a child. They
were, and remain, my all-time favorite toy.)
In the process of hunting for them I have also learned a bit of their
They were originally manufactured by Halsam, a Chicago-based company
that specialized in wooden products (puzzles, alphabet blocks, checkers,
etc.). Originally they were pressed wood, red and yellow, with
lithographed cardboard doors and windows. During this phase of
existence they came packaged in a rectagular box with a lift-off lid.
In this configuration they were called "American Bricks".
The same company made a product similar to Lincoln Logs, called,
appropriately,American Logs. These are still fairly easy to find in
antique shops in their cylindrical cardboard tubes with screw on tin
lids (like Tinker Toys).
Sometime around the end of WWII, manufacture changed to plastic, and the
name changed to "American Plastic Bricks". The box remained square
until the late 40's or the early 50's. Then it switched to a cardboard
cylinder with tin lid. Cannisters came in about 6 different sizes, from
about 100 pieces to nearly 1000. The cover illustration remained much
the same over the years, a boy *and* a *girl* building a house together.
In plastic, the bricks were red and white. White was used for
foundations, lintels, and doors and windows. Doors and windows were
plastic too, and would swing open and closed. Windows were single,
double, triple paned, and evenutally a picture window was added.
Jalousie windows were also available at some point. Illustrations of
possible building plans remained the same between the wood and plastic
versions, but the bricks were not interchangeable.
American *Plastic* Bricks were still manufactured under the Halsam name,
but now the cannisters also carried the brand name: Elgo. Quite a
coincidence of names, since Elgo is an anagram of the toy that put them
out of business: Lego!
Through the 50's, APBs were a staple in the Sears Roebuck Xmas toy
WishBook. Until about 1965 (approximate - without checking my notes)
when Legos appeared. The first Lego display in the Wishbook was
relatively small. By the following year, Legos occupied a full half
page or more. (Sort of the same way that Barbie appeared in 1959). The
following year, American Plastic Bricks *vanished* from the pages of the
Sears Catalog, never to reappear. (sniff, sniff :-( )
Before their demise, the brick were restyled. The actual building
bricks remained the same size, but doors and windows were down-sized.
Bricks and doors and windows were still interchangeable after the
restyling. The triple window disappeared. In its stead the double
window was restyled to a triple window, and the single window to a
double. The picture window, without changing its overall size had side
windows added and a small blank panel added to the bottom. Doors were
now the size of the original double window (with the knob in the middle
of the door (*very* modern and fashionable in the mid-60's!). Windows
were also now French Provincial, with diagonal divisions of their panes,
instead of the Colonial look of the earlier version. The overall effect
was to give the illusion of larger buildings from the same number of
bricks. Some additional pieces were added (a flagpole, I think). And
the girl was removed from the package display. Now, instead of a
drawing, a photo of 2 (dare I say rather "dorky" looking) boys were
building something similar to Frank Lloyd Wright's Waterplace Towers (a
Chicago high-rise landmark).
Halsam also manufactured a building set called Skyline (or Skyliner -
I've never found any that I could afford, so I'm unsure of the correct
name). This was an even smaller scaled building set for constructing
high-rise buildings of the Louis Sullivan type (along the lines of the
Wrigley Building and the Tribune Tower - recognizeable Chicago
My guess is that for most of you this is more information than you ever
cared to know about American Bricks. Block City is another story that
I'll spare you all for now.
Considering that these toys were a mainstay for practically all middle
class boys raised in the 50's (I'm always encountering guys (and some
gals) who remember having them) they are remarkably difficult to find.
Though last September I found a complete cannister in a Rescue Mission
(similar to Salvation Army) Thrift Store in York, Pennsylvania!
I've had antique dealers (even those specializing in toys) tell me that
they see them, but don't pick them up because no one is interested in
them. (But wait! *I'm* interested in them! Can I be the *only* one?)
Others have told me they get them in, but they disappear right away,
because architects buy them up. So... You tell me.
If anyone out there is interested and would like to discuss this
further, without boring the pants off the rest of rec.antiques, please
feel free to contact me directly.
Hope I'll find some playmates out there who'll share their own stories
of hours spent building charming little colonial or Arts & Crafts houses
with American (Plastic) Bricks!
deg farrelly, Media Librarian Internet: ic...@asuvm.inre.asu.edu
Arizona State University West BITnet: icdeg@asuacad
4701 West Thunderbird Road Phone: (602) 543-8522
Phoenix, Arizona 85069-7100 Fax: (602) 543-8521
Home: (602) 942-3637
(in answer to my earlier question here -- )
>> -- does any one remember a special
>> kind of playset from the 50's -- no doubt the late 50's -- that
>> instead of being a farm or a fortress was a space station? I've
>> heard it was made by Superior....
>Re the Superior Spaceport--no, I don't have one, but I DO have the
>Superior Airport. The Spaceport has been in a toy magazine I suscribe to,
>but the asking price was about $700....ouch!
Yow indeed. That's pretty much what I would have expected, though.
The person who told me about the manufacturer (I certainly didn't
remember the Superior name from when I was 8 or whatever! :-) )
quoted likely prices in that vicinity. I don't think I'm going
to run right out and buy one of these, even if I happen to come
across one somewhere! I would like to see one, though -- basic
nostalgia trip here. Fortunately the plastic blocks are a lot
cheaper, so I can indulge the Block City nostalgia if not the
Thanks for the answer, Barb!
Thanks in advance --