facts about the invention
of Erector Sets by A.C. Gilbert in 1913.
|Born in Salem, Oregon in 1884. A. C.
Gilbert (1884-1962), boyhood love was magic tricks: he became so proficient that he once
matched a traveling professional magician trick for trick, and earned the prescient
praise, Gilbert was also a brilliant student, and soon went on to Yale Medical School. He
helped pay his tuition by performing as a magician, and founded a company, Mysto
Manufacturing, which sold magic kits for kids. In 1909, Gilbert finished medical school,
but decided to expand his budding toy business rather than practice as a doctor.
|Like many residents of
New Haven, Connecticut, he often took the train to New York City; and on one trip in 1911
he was inspired with what would be the most popular of his dozens of inventions.
Watching out the train window as some workmen positioned and riveted the
steel beams of an electrical power-line tower, Gilbert decided to create a children's
construction kit: not just a toy, but an assemblage of metal beams with evenly spaced
holes for bolts to pass through, screws, bolts, pulleys, gears and eventually even
engines. A British toy company called Meccano Company was then selling a similar kit, but
Gilbert's Erector set was more realistic and had a number of technical advantages --- most
notably, steel beams that were not flat but bent lengthwise at a 90-degree angle, so that
four of them nested side-to-side formed a very sturdy, square, hollow support beam.
Gilbert began selling the "Mysto Erector Structural Steel
Builder" in 1913, backed by the first major American ad campaign for a toy. The
Erector set quickly became one of the most popular toys of all time: living rooms across
the country were transformed into miniature metropoles, filled with skyscrapers, bridges
and railways. Those kids who already owned a set would beg Santa annually for an upgrade,
aiming for the elusive "No. 12 1/2" deluxe kit that came with blueprints for the
"Mysterious Walking Giant" robot. It is difficult for anyone under the age of 35
today to appreciate just how popular the Erector set was for over half a century.
A. C. Gilbert was one of the most multi-talented
inventors of all time. With many fields open to his ingenuity, he chose to educate and
entertain children through toys.
TO LEARN MORE
A. C. Gilbert,
Inventor Profile from
The Great Idea Finder
History of Toys
from The Great Idea Finder
ON THE BOOKSHELF:
Building for Children: Making Buildings of the World With the Ultimate Construction Toy
by Les Walker, Lester R. Walker, Witold Rybczynski (Introduction) / Hardcover (1995) /
Block Building for Children is a great way for kids and parents to play together, and of
course is also perfect for budding young architects. Each project is accompanied by
detailed plans, photographs and a stunning line drawing to fire the imagination, and the
text for each project puts it in its historical context.
The Man Who Changed How Boys and Toys Were Made: The Life and Times of
A. C. Gilbert
by Bruce Watson / Paperback: 224 pages / Penguin Books; Reprint edition
(October 28, 2003)
Athlete, magician, marketing genius, millionaire- A. C. Gilbert was all
of these, but he made his name by refusing to grow up. In 1913 Gilbert
poured his boyish enthusiasm into a new toy. He called it the Erector
Set, and the A. C. Gilbert Company sold 30 million of them.
Kid Stuff : Great Toys from Our Childhood
( Out of Print.)
by David Hoffman, Viktor Budnik (Photographer) / Paperback - 108 pages (1996) / Chronicle
Ever wonder if Barbie had a last name? (It's Roberts.) Who invented Lincoln Logs? (John L.
Wright, son of Frank Lloyd Wright.) Filled with a host of curious facts and little-known
anecdotes about the creation of dozens of timeless toys and games, Kid Stuff is a
celebration of classic playthings, mostly from the 1940s throught the 1960s, that are
still popular today.
ON THE WEB:
Erector Set Web Site
The site is operated by Brio Division of Maccano Company,
Invention Dimension -
Inventor of the Week
Celebrates inventor/innovator role models through outreach activities and annual
awards to inspire a new generation of American scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs.
A.C. Gilbert was a native Oregonian who was born in Salem and was the famous
inventor of Erector Sets and Gilbert Chemistry Sets. Gilbert was the first president of
the Toy Manufacturers Association (TMA), an association that hosts the largest toy fair in
A.C. Gilbert Heritage
From 1909 till his death in 1961, AC Gilbert would revolutionize the
toys that we would play with. For a little over fifty years he brought
us toys that made science fun.
AC Gilbert's Discovery Village
A.C. Gilbert's Discovery Village
Hands-on children's museum with interactive exhibits in the sciences, arts and
Everthing you ever needed to know about Erector Sets.
These pages are devoted to vintage construction toys of all types. This site is intended
for the enjoyment of its visitors and has no connection with any commercial firm.
This site is dedicated to providing a complete selection of high quality blocks and
building toys and accessories. Invemtory includes the entire line from each manufacturer
in stock, including basic sets, extra pieces, add-on sets, and storage bins with many new
and hard-to-find construction toys.
Who Saved Christmas
Abstract of an article by Bruce Watson, originally published in the April 1999 issue of
Set Heart Pump (Page removed.)
Using a toy Erector set, William Sewell Jr. and William W. L. Glenn, Yale University
medical students, built this section of a heart pump, which Sewell successfully used in
experimental bypass surgery on dogs.(URL: www.smithsonianlegacies.si.edu/objectdescription.cfm?ID=17)
DID YOU KNOW?:
- By the time of his death in 1962, A. C. Gilbert was credited
with 150 patents for the inventions that went into his products, which were really much
more than just "toys."
Sources in BOLD Type
page revised March, 2005.
Berners-Lee's invention has revolutionized the world like nothing
The invention of the Internet,
should be classed with the greatest events of the 20th Century.
The Aero Sport All-Terrain Bed
with Dual Power Pump is the perfect addition to any camping trip or weekend
book, is the perfect desktop reference for both the science novice and the
technologically advanced reader alike.
CELEBRATE WITH US