Saturday, July 12, 2014


In 1911, Albert Carlton (A. C.) Gilbert, while watching the construction of railroad girders, was inspired  to invent his most popular product, the Erector Set.  A former Olympic Gold medal winner (Pole Vault for which he held a world's record) and amateur magician, he originally founded his company on the production of magic kits under the name Mysto Manufacturing.

When World War I came along, Gilbert, like many manufacturing firms, was requested by the United States government to switch its production to war materials.  Gilbert consented, but later regretted the decision.  When the Council of National Defense proposed banning the production of toys all together in 1918, Gilbert successfully argued before Congress resulting in the rejection of the proposal earning him the title, "The Man Who Saved Christmas", the story of which was later made into the movie of the same name.

I found this Erector set at an estate sale about a month ago, picking it up for $10.  Based on the research I've done, it probably dates from 1948 to 1953.  The set (a number 6 1/2) seems fairly complete with numerous various parts, electric motor (although it appears to be locked up) and the outbuilding used in many of the builds.

The box was pretty much destroyed with just the top portion of the lid still remaining, however, it did still have the original manual.

Although the set dates from later, the instruction booklet is copyrighted 1943.  It's probable the book was produced, but then shelved when Gilbert once again retooled his shops to produce war materials during World War II.

Opening with his popular salutation, "Hello Boys!" (girls need not apply), A. C. offered almost 50 pages of construction ideas ranging from the simple to the complex.

Most of the models in this booklet would be foreign and unrecognizable to kids of today.

Unlike today's Lego specialty sets, the book merely offers ideas with pictures (sometimes labeling a few of the parts) rather than a step by step assembly.

For my first build, I chose this Delivery Truck

I had to improvise on a few parts, but I had most.

The back of the book had separate specialty parts you could buy along with a price list of replacement parts.

Gilbert also sold American Flyer trains, shown here on the back of booklet.

A. C. Gilbert passed away in 1961 and the family sold their ownership in the company.  Shortly afterward, the company ceased to exist although Erector Sets are still sold today, marketed by Meccano of France, Gilbert's oldest competitor.

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