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Lesney was founded in 1947 .....
as an industrial die-casting company by Leslie Smith (March 6, 1918 - May 26, 2005) and Rodney Smith.
They had been school friends and served together in the Royal Navy during World War II.
Rodney Smith introduced to his partner a man named John "Jack" Odell, an engineer he had met in a previous job at D.C.M.T. (another die-casting company). Mr. Odell initially rented a space in the Lesney building to make his own die-casting products, but he joined the company as a partner in that same year.

Lesney originally started operations in a derelict pub in north London (The Rifleman), but later, as finances allowed, changed several location times before finally moving to a factory in Hackney which became synonymous with the company. In late 1947 they received a request for parts to a toy gun. As that proved to be a viable alternative to reducing their factory's output during periods in which they received fewer or smaller industrial orders, they started to make die cast model toys in the next year.
the first model toy they produced in 1948 ? a die-cast road roller based clearly on a Dinky model (the industry leader in die-cast toy cars at that time) ? proved also to be the first of perhaps three major milestones on the path to their eventual destiny. It established transportation as a viable and interesting theme; other similar models followed, including a cowboy-influenced covered wagon and a soap-box racer.
a toy which Mr. Odell designed for his daughter: Her school only allowed children to bring toys that could fit inside a matchbox, so Mr. Odell crafted a scaled-down version of the Lesney green and red road roller. Based on the aforementioned size restriction, the idea was born to sell the model in a replica matchbox ? thus also yielding the name of the series which would propel Lesney to worldwide, mass-market success.
A period of great expansion, tremendous profit, and recognition followed: In 1966, Lesney received their first (of several) Queen's Award for Industry. By the mid-'60s, Matchbox was the largest brand of die-cast model vehicles in the world, and had diversified the line into multiple series.

On July 11, 1982, after years of difficulties due to the economic climate in Britain at the time, Lesney went bankrupt and into receivership. Competing companies Mettoy (Corgi) and Meccano (Dinky) also suffered the same fate. The Matchbox brand as well as Lesney's tooling were bought by and became a division of Universal Holdings/Universal Toys, where the company re-formed as "Matchbox International Ltd." Tooling and production were moved to Macau.

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