A.C. Gilbert, a toy manufacturer and Olympic gold medalist in the pole vault, unveiled his first Erector set in 1913, one-upping the contemporary Meccano building toy by allowing kids to build square girders. With a pulley, gears and strips of metal, kids could build stable structures, and the larger sets added a DC motor (or several) to power your working models.

As the Erector set gained popularity, it also grew more elaborate. The numbered model sets could build anything from a truck to a steam shovel to a power plant to a complete amusement park (ferris wheel, parachute drops, carousel, airplane ride, all working). For the more adventurous, virtually anything could be built with the right Erector pieces and a little ingenuity. Pistons, wheels, gears, levers…the basic building blocks of machinery were included in every Erector set, and the possibilities were endless.

Erector sets have maintained their popularity down through the decades, offering sets and plans as advanced as the kids could handle. And although old rival Meccano seemed to get the last laugh by buying the Erector line, it’s still the Erector name that’s synonymous with “toy for genius kids, everybody else surrender to the superior intellect.”


AC Gilbert toys history

Alfred Carlton Gilbert, born in 1884, entered Yale University Medical School at age 20 and earned some money by performing magic shows. In 1908, he established the Mysto Magic Company together with John Petrie, a machinist who manufactured magic props and had a mutual interest in magic. They were manufacturing boxed sets of magic equipment for the wholesale trade by 1909. Gilbert took care of promotion & sales, while Petrie produced the magic sets. In 1911, Gilbert bought out Petrie and altered the direction of the firm, turning his sights toward the engineering & construction of toys. His Erector Sets were the first-ever American (construction) toys equipped with moving parts and motors. Erector set commercial:

Erector Sets at the Toy Fair 1913

Erector Sets became an instant success, after introduction at the toy fairs of 1913, thanks to Gilbert’s marketing savvy. He immediately started a media blitz with a series of advertisements in local & national papers and magazines.

The success was also due to the public’s interest in construction during a big building boom in America. Originally priced from $1.00 to $525.00, Gilbert’s new line of toys was awarded a gold medal at the Panama Pacific Exposition in 1915 and went on to sell more than 30 million units over the next 50 years.

A.C. Gilbert Company

Gilbert’s company underwent major changes in 1916: It was renamed the A.C. Gilbert Company and moved to a five-block complex in New Haven, Connecticut. New products were also launched, including a line of pressed-steel cars and trucks and a line of educational scientific toys.

Also in 1916, Gilbert became the first president of the Toy Manufacturers of America, an organization set up by him to further the interests of American toy manufacturers after the embargo on German products was lifted following the war.

By 1938, Gilbert had taken over the American Flyer Corporation, relocating the entire operation from Chicago to New Haven. He re-designed the appearance and packaging of the trains, but kept the American Flyer name. Gilbert’s marketing magic helped revive sales, and American Flyer once again competed with Lionel Trains, the market leader at the time.


Note there is a number of old   Erector set commercials on You tube!

Erector Sets can be found under Toy Gifts- Construction Toy Gifts on Art Of Toys site-