Dr. A.C. Gilbert - Erector Set Inventor
Brief Biography of Doctor A.C. Gilbert -
Erector Set Inventor, Athlete and Promoter

by Donald E. Sheppard, Editor for Mr. William "Bill" Bean

Alfred Carlton Gilbert was possibly the most talented man of the 20th Century. Born in Oregon in 1884, he won an Olympic Gold Medal and married in 1908, then graduated from Yale Medical School the following year. He performed as a magician to support his family. Rather than practice medicine, he co-founded Mysto Corporation in Connecticut to build and sell magic kits. With a $5,000 loan, he started building Erector Sets on his own in 1913; 30 million of them would sell in his lifetime.

His inspiration came from watching steel girders being erected to electrify the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad. He believed that creative toys could replicate skyscrapers, trains, bridges, cars and a host of things that fascinated young people. Others had attempted to do that, but Dr. Gilbert used realistic steel pieces for kids to safely build enormous models.

Thanks to an aggressive ad campaign started at the 1913 New York Toy Fair, the Erector Set became the most popular educational toy in history. Gilbert became a millionaire. His determination to build Erector Sets along with munitions during the Great War won him the title "The Man Who Saved Christmas" in 1918. He sold American Flyer trains, chemistry sets, Mysto Magic Exhibition Sets, and by the early 1950s, a safe Atomic Energy Lab for kids.

By the time of his death in 1961, Dr. Gilbert held patents on over 150 inventions. Jack Wrather acquired his company in 1964, then Gabriel Industries, Ideal Toys, CBS Toys, View Master, Tyco and Meccano. Sears Roebuck, Montgomery Wards, J. C. Penney's and Radio Shack each had special marketing arrangements. The Brio Company owns Erector today, but similar sets are produced all over the world, particularly in Russia and Asia.

The Man Who Changed How Boys and Toys Were Made  Idea Finder  Inventers
Erector Set Books: Greenbergs' Guide to Gilbert Erector Sets   Collections
ErectorSet.net    Other Photos   Other Collectors