1901 - 1908 Mechanics Made Easy
Meccano was invented by Frank Hornby a Liverpool office worker. He had been making metal models for his two sons in his garden shed. However he realized that if he used strips perforated with holes at a set distance and a system of standard size clips or bolts to make up a model then that model could be taken apart and used in another model. Hornby eventually settled on strips of 3 sizes, 2.5, 5.5 and 12.5 inches long with a hole every half inch. 8 Gauge wire served as Axle Rods followed by clips, angle brackets and wheels.
By 1900 Frank Hornby had enough pieces to consider marketing his idea. Interestingly most of the models that Frank Hornby envisioned for his new Educational Toy as he saw it where connected to railways, however non railway Bridges and Cranes where an option. By 1901 a 18 page instruction book had been prepared with the title, 'Mechanics Made Easy - An Adaptable Mechanical Toy'. The 'toy,' being primarily aimed at parents who wanted to broaden there child's education. In fact Mechanics Made Easy was the original name, the name Meccano was not introduced until 1907.
The Original Box contained a very limited variety of parts in comparison to later Meccano, just containing 3 size of perforated strips, 12.5 inch, 5.5 inch and 2.5 inch actually having 12 of each. The sizes will be very familiar to later Meccano users being the main sizes throughout Meccano's history, however the actual parts where different being thin metal folded at the edges to give it strength.
The next part was an angle bracket, the original was crude but the design of the later angle bracket can be seen, the box contained 18 of these. Next came 3 sizes of Axle Rods, 12 inch, 5 inch and 2 inch, these unlike most later rods where grooved to take keys to lock wheels. The box contained 1 of the largest axle and 2 each of the others. The Box had a crank handle also grooved.
Wheels consisted of 5 flanged and grooved wheels, perhaps the part most influenced by railways and a bush wheel. After this there was a spanner, 12 keys for locking wheels and axles, which can best be described as extended spring clips and a screwdriver. Then the parts Meccano would be useless without 48 nuts and bolts. The set was completed with a hank of cord and a wire hook.
Although we have not as yet been able to find a manual as far back as this, it is very likely the earliest manual would be similar to models 1 to 10 of the 1904 manual. It is noticeable that a lot of the models where railway related, however with the 12.5 inch strips quite large models could be made as shown by models 9 & 10 the crane and the warehouse.
The contents did not change through 1902 the first full year of the set, However in 1903 the first changes came in the the number of flanged and grooved wheels where reduced to 4. To replace these 2 1 inch pulleys where introduced, a half inch 20 tooth pinion was introduced along with a pawl. The nuts and bolts where increased to 50, an extra Hank of Cord was added.
By 1904 the number of parts where expand and new sets where introduced adding sets B & C. The sets where so organized by building larger sets on the smaller ones. In other words Set B contained all the parts of set A the original Box plus more parts, set C contained all the parts of set B plus extras. This meant that a purchaser of Set C could also make all the models from sets A & B. Also it meant that conversion sets could be marketed adding the extra parts for the larger set. By 1904 conversion sets A1, B1 and curiously C1 where marketed.Sets D and E where added late in 1905.
Set B introduced an extra perforated strip at 3.5 inch, 2 new sizes of axle rod 6 inches long and a 3.25 inch a curious size which was later lengthened to 3.5 inches. A new 1.5 inch pulley along with several gears, a 25 tooth 0.75 inch pinion, a 50 tooth 1.25 inch gear wheel, a 25 tooth 0.75 inch contrate wheel and a worm wheel, all these where key fitting. A ball or card of cord, a single bent strip and a 2.5 x 1 inch double angle strip at the time called a large bent strip. Finally some wood screws where included to bolt the model to a wood base where necessary. unusually for the largest set, set C had only one extra new part a 3 inch perforated strip.
1905 saw the introduction of set D and a conversion set to set E which was not introduced until 1906. Set D added 2 new perforated strips a 9.5 inch and a 2 inch, a free running 0.5 inch pulley and a 50 toothed 1.7 inch contrate wheel, The final introduction was this curious Sheet of Xylonite a very early plastic, Set E's only introduction was a 12ft Chain.
In 1906 the original Box A was no longer the smallest set, a much smaller X outfit. This had reduced parts on the A for example it had 4 12.5 inch perforated strips compared to Box A's 13 the year before, and 26 nuts and bolts compared to 50 in Box A. The larger sets where unchanged.
In similar vain 1907 saw the introduction of an even smaller set called Kindergarten with just 10 nuts and bolts, its name would suggest that it was aimed at younger children with a special manual which was easy to understand. However a piece that would become a mainstay of later Meccano the 12.5 inch angle girder, this like the strips where made with tinplate and folded edges.
1906-8 saw the introduction of parts that would become familiar to Meccano users for generations to come the folded perforated strips where replaced with a thicker nickel plated strip as was the angle girders by 1908, whilst grooved rods where fazed out in favour whole rods whilst the longest rods where shortened from 12 inches to 11.5 inches.
By the end of the Mechanics Made Easy Period, things had come a long way in 7 years from a box of crude strips and wheels, to Nickel strips and Angle Girders, Pinions, gear, contrate and worm wheels had been introduced. There was still a long way to go but many of the basic Meccano pieces that would be used for more than a 100 years had arrived. Sets had gone from the original box to a range of sets some smaller than the original but 3 much larger sets, capable of making some very large models.
Note:- During the First 20 years of Meccano some Parts Changed Numbers, whilst the earlist of the parts had no numbers. The left hand column shows either a dash where a part started with no number or the number on introduction, the 2nd column shows the number as they where in 1979 when Binns Road closed or where the part was stopped if it ceased production before 1979.