Welcome to the wonderful world of Gilbert ERECTOR Sets and Erector set home page for Ed Bohl. A. C. Gilbert introduced this marvelous metal toy construction set at the New York Toy Fair in 1913. When A.C. Gilbert went out of business around 1964, Erector sets (as we knew them) stopped being made. I collect and restore A. C. Gilbert Erector sets as a hobby.
The sets I put up for sale are cleaned, inventoried and organized as close as possible to what it was when it left THE A. C. GILBERT CO., factory many years ago. The cardboard inserts are made from a heavier cardboard (matt-board) than the original, some of the pieces do not always have a high shine to them because time is not always friendly to some of the finishes used at the factory. There is in some cases a small amount of rust or paint chipping on the pieces. The pieces are clean and in good condition and are not refinished, I elect not to get the pieces re-plated to keep the cost low as possible and still be able to provide a very nice set that is affordable. There are of course some pieces of the sets that are hard or impossible to find, then a substitute may then be used. In most sets the "hank of string"," plastic screwdriver" and "paper flag" are missing. This is because of the cost to finding these parts, and still provide a very nice set that is affordable would be impossible.
A.C Gilbert started the Mysto Magic Co. in 1909. In 1913 he developed the Erector set. At this time there were several construction toys out. The most prominent was the Meccanno construction toy developed by Horby in England. It was made up of pulleys, gears, and several ½" wide strips of varying length with holes evenly spaced on them. These sets were very popular. Gilbert needed something unique. What he created was the square girder. Gilbert's Erector sets had pulleys, gears, and several 1" wide strips with triangles cut in them and the edges bent over. This allowed for 4 strips to be put together with 2 screws to form a very sturdy square girder. The sets were numbered 1 to 8 according to size. The smaller set were in cardboard boxes with the larger sets in wooden boxes. The smallest of the largest sets had a DC motor included in them. The most you could build with these sets were structures: buildings, bridges, and etc.¹
The next change came in 1924. The Girders went from 1" to ½". This allowed for small curved girders to be used in more impressive models. Trucks, ferriswheels, zeppelins, and many other action models could be built. In 1931 he came out with the Erector Hudson and Tender. A very impressive model. In the mid 30's the wooden boxes were dropped for metal boxes. In 1940 he came out with the Parachute Jump. Another interesting thing happened in the 40's. A war was on and there was a lack of metal. Gilbert developed wooden girders. These are rare today.¹
THE UNITED STATES WAS DEEPLY INTO WORLD War I when a stumpy, athletic businessman entered the new, heavily guarded Navy Building in Washington, D.C. With him were several other men in suits, each carrying bulky packages. Guards searched the bundles and found nothing dangerous, just toys and some curious pieces of steel resembling tiny construction girders. The group was allowed to pass into the building. Entering the office of the Secretary of the Navy, they shook hands with him and the Secretaries of Commerce, War and the Interior. They had been convened to discuss toys and the nation's wartime priorities. Should parents be asked to support America's war effort by buying Liberty bonds instead of toys that Christmas, or should the Council of National Defense impose a ban on toy purchases? Beyond that another question loomed. Were toys vital to the nation's morale? The council had allotted less than a half hour to decide the fate of Christmas, but A. C. Gilbert had brought presents.²
The greatest influences in the life of a boy are his toys," Gilbert told the austere council. "The American boy is a genuine boy and he wants genuine toys." Toys, that is, like the ones he now began to unpack. Within a few minutes, the Secretary of the Navy was on the floor of his office playing with a toy submarine. The others quickly joined in. Tinkering with toy engines, assembling steel girders into bridges, the bureaucrats briefly became boys again.²
As they played, the president of the A. C. Gilbert Company spoke about good clean fun and the importance of toys in building "solid American character." Yes, yes, but could someone please explain to the Secretary of Commerce how to start the steam engine. The Secretary of the Interior wanted to know more about a children's book on airplanes. And the Secretary of the Navy had several questions about his miniature sub.²
When the meeting finally ended, three hours later, the council decided against the ban on toys. The bureaucrats got to keep their presents-and A. C. Gilbert was hailed in the press as "the man who saved Christmas.²
In 1950 he came out with the Amusement Park set. This set had a great little model, the merry-go-round. By this time the largest set was the 12 1/2. Another big seller of Gilbert was American Flyer trains. They were really big in the 50's. About this time the Gilbert Co. got computerized, therefore you start seeing sets numbered like 10093 instead of 12 ½. By the late 50's A.C. Gilbert Sr. had turned the company over to his son, A.C. Gilbert Jr.. In 1961 Gilbert Sr. died. In 1965 the company was bought by the Gabriel Co.¹
This was just a brief history of Erector. Every decade had something unique that happened to the Gilbert company. With the summer Olympics in Atlanta, GA in 1996 it is worthy to note that Gilbert won a gold medal for pole vaulting in the 1908 Olympics in England.¹
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