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The Inspiring, Nerdy Toys of A. C. Gilbert

Early toys got kids interested in science and engineering through experimentation
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A. C. GILBERT’S LEGACY:

In 1941 Gilbert opened the Gilbert Hall of Science in New York City. The hall was half museum and half gift shop full of toys. Gilbert retired in 1954, handing over his company to his son, A.C., Jr., and writing an autobiography called The Man Who Lives in Paradise .....[ More ]

ELECTRIC TRAINS:

In 1938 Gilbert bought the rights to a line of toy trains called American Flyer. As he developed toy trains, Gilbert was known for his focus on realism and scale—making his toy trains look more lifelike than most.....[ More ]

KASTER KIT:

With the Gilbert Kaster kit, kids could make lifelike models of soldiers, sailors, American Indians and athletes out of pieces of lead. The crucible got up to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and melted the lead bits into hollow figurines in the shapes of soldiers, sailors, athletes, and more.....[ More ]

MICROSCOPE SET:

Kids could look into the Gilbert microscope and see fly wings ® gleam back under its polarizing lens. The microscope set came with everything from fly wings ® to minerals for kids to examine.....[ More ]

ATOMIC ENERGY SET:

The original Atomic Energy set sold for $49.50 in 1950, the modern equivalent of $458.99, and came with four different kinds of uranium ore. It also included a Geiger counter, a government manual called Prospecting for Uranium and a comic book called Learn How Dagwood Splits the Atom .....[ More ]

GILBERT ELECTRIC EYE SET:

"Can you think of anything more uncanny than making a bell ring by striking a match—turning a radio off or on by the flick of a flashlight—making the rising sun operate an alarm?" asks the catalog copy for the Gilbert Electric Eye, released in 1948.....[ More ]

CHEMISTRY SET:

In 1922 Gilbert added chemistry sets to his toy company. The original kits had ingredients for rocket fuel, and later sets included Geiger counters and information about radioactivity. Kids could mix chemicals together to observe reactions, and the kits came with booklets filled with hundreds of experiments.....[ More ]

MYSTERIOUS WALKING ROBOT:

The Mysterious Walking Robot had two tanklike feet with treads run by small motors. Once it was wired up, the robot would crawl forward and its eyes would light up. "For many years, scientists all over the world have tried to build a robot or walking man," the instructions say.....[ More ]

THE AMUSEMENT PARK SET:

One of many spin-offs from the Erector set, this kit allowed kids to build a merry-go-round, a parachute jump, a “rocket ride” and hundreds of other models, motorized by a 110-volt engine with forward and reverse gears.....[ More ]

JUNIOR ERECTOR SET:

After the success of the Erector sets, Gilbert created a version for younger children with easier–to-connect pieces.....[ More ]

ERECTOR SET:

Patented in 1913, the Erector set was Gilbert's most famous toy. The story goes that he was looking out a window of a train on his way to New York City when he saw workmen building electrical towers.....[ More ]

MYSTO MAGIC SET:

Gilbert started out by selling magic kits for kids—calling on his years as a magician while at Yale. The Mysto Magic set included card games, mind-reading tricks, coins, handkerchiefs, cup tricks, and more.....[ More ]

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