The Wonderful Story Of Lionel Trains Began On September 5th, 1900! On that day, Joshua Lionel Cowen and a colleague established the Lionel Manufacturing Company, which was going to engage in "the manufacture of electrical novelties".
One of the company's first products was a flatbed trailer and track that Cowen sold to a local retailer to help him advertise products in his store window. That retailer came back the next day for another when his first customer bought the advertisement instead of the products. He continued to order more, and other stores followed. Cowen now had a business, and electric toy trains made Lionel a household name.