Artistically designed instructions for building castles, towers and bridges, appealing lid pictures, the typical red, yellow and blue stones and the ingenious expansion system made the Anchor Stone building block kit a worldwide success.

Anker Stone Building Blocks, after 1910

Object of the month July 2021

Artistically designed instructions for building castles, towers and bridges, appealing lid pictures, the typical red, yellow and blue stones and the ingenious expansion system made the Anchor Stone building block kit a worldwide success.
Templates and cross-sections facilitate the assembly of the Anchor Stones.
SDTB / C. Kirchner

At the end of the 1870s, Gustav Lilienthal was able to combine his enthusiasm for architecture, technology and art into a single invention - the first stone building block kit.

The kit contained stones made of quartz sand, chalk, linseed oil and color pigments. They came in three colors that stand for bricks (red), sandstone (yellow) and slate (blue). Children could build castles, buildings, towers and bridges by following finely designed assembly instructions. Nothing but their own weight held the stones together. The children coincidentally learned the architectural language of form and the basic principles of statics as they assembled the building blocks.

Kits to supplement the basic set were also available. The boxes had passwords. For example, the password for Basic Kit 9 of the roof tile series was “Erpel”. A dealer was thus able to locate all matching supplementary kits - in this case the “Herne” kit with the number 9A.

Gustav and his brother, the aviation pioneer Otto Lilienthal, tried to market the kits in Berlin without success. They then sold their invention to the businessman Friedrich Adolf Richter. Despite the contractual condition that “they cease manufacturing any such kits”, Gustav Lilienthal produced new kits in other countries. This led to a lawsuit. Richter won.

The legal costs and penalties were settled by handing over the production facility and distribution network. The building blocks marketed by Richter as “Anchor Stones” achieved worldwide fame.