Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Gotta Love This Toy...!

With Christmas coming up, you may know someone that would like one of these sets!

Heck, I'd like one of these myself! Never had one before, I'm sorry to say! Did you ever wonder about the folks that invent a toy like the erector sets? Pretty smart people, if you ask me!

I looked up the man that came up with the Erector Set as we know it, and thought you might like to know a little about him. Interesting to say the least!

Born in Salem, Oregon in 1884. A. C. Gilbert (1884-1962), boyhood love was magic tricks: he became so proficient that he once matched a traveling professional magician trick for trick, and earned the prescient praise, Gilbert was also a brilliant student, and soon went on to Yale Medical School. He helped pay his tuition by performing as a magician, and founded a company, Mysto Manufacturing, which sold magic kits for kids. In 1909, Gilbert finished medical school, but decided to expand his budding toy business rather than practice as a doctor.

Like many residents of New Haven, Connecticut, he often took the train to New York City; and on one trip in 1911 he was inspired with what would be the most popular of his dozens of inventions. Watching out the train window as some workmen positioned and riveted the steel beams of an electrical power-line tower, Gilbert decided to create a children's construction kit: not just a toy, but an assemblage of metal beams with evenly spaced holes for bolts to pass through, screws, bolts, pulleys, gears and eventually even engines.

A British toy company called Meccano Company was then selling a similar kit, but Gilbert's Erector set was more realistic and had a number of technical advantages --- most notably, steel beams that were not flat but bent lengthwise at a 90-degree angle, so that four of them nested side-to-side formed a very sturdy, square, hollow support beam.

Gilbert began selling the "Mysto Erector Structural Steel Builder" in 1913, backed by the first major American ad campaign for a toy. The Erector set quickly became one of the most popular toys of all time: living rooms across the country were transformed into miniature metropoles, filled with skyscrapers, bridges and railways.

Those kids who already owned a set would beg Santa annually for an upgrade, aiming for the elusive "No. 12 1/2" deluxe kit that came with blueprints for the "Mysterious Walking Giant" robot. It is difficult for anyone under the age of 35 today to appreciate just how popular the Erector set was for over half a century.

A. C. Gilbert was one of the most multi-talented inventors of all time. With many fields open to his ingenuity, he chose to educate and entertain children through toys.

You know, you have to admire people that choose to make children happy as their life's work! What a satisfying career that would be! I mean, what can match the joy on the faces of children on Christmas morning? Very few things in this world, I'm thinking!

Now, my friends, let's have some fresh coffee in the kitchen. A little chilly outside this morning!


JoJo said...

Good Morning My Special One.
Interesting story. I love those building sets and Lego's too.
A little chilly its 25 here in Tucson and this hot coffee feels sooooo good

Ben in Texas said...

Yep, had the BIG box erector set in fact we had two sets once our cousin (now brother) came to live with us. We would often use it and the big Lionel Figure 8 track setsw to build elaborate setups. Also had a set of Lincoln logs to add to the mix.

Anonymous said...

I had one of those erector sets as a kid, it was pretty cool. Way different than the toys sold now, no lights sounds or 'Super Action Speed' to attract the user. Just gotta use your poor old imagination . . . :^).

I think Garrett Wade or Lee Valley tools sells a version of these kits, I saw them in a catalog about a month ago. Took me back.

Have a great day HermitJim.

Dizzy-Dick said...

Yes sir, I remember many wonderful hours spent building unique things with my erector set. And like Ben, also had Lincoln logs and Lional trains. And a big old set of the original American Bricks. No wonder I ended up doing engineering design work :-)

Mechanic in Illinois said...

I liked erector sets as long as the instructions were there. Without them it was a mess. Thanks for the great story.

HermitJim said...

Hey JoJo...
I know that many kids had a lot of fun, using their imagination to build things with these sets!

I did have a train set, and that's another thing I'd like to have again!

I thank you, sweetie, for coming by today!

Hey Ben...
Sounds like you could have built a LOT with the logs and two erector sets! It boggles the mind to think that kids had to think a little to make something!

Strange how we didn't know we were learning as we had fun! We just enjoyed it!

Thanks, buddy, for coming by today!

Hey Anon 7:35...
When kids are using their imagination, a stick or can or board or box...can all become a doorway to adventure!

Didn't need a lot of batteries either!

Thanks for coming by today!

Hey Dizzy...
Funny how some toys can set the tone for all the rest of our lives!

We should encourage kids to think more and use their imagination more than they do!

Well, again I'm preaching to the choir here, as all of us have the same thoughts about this!

Main thing, learning can be fun!

Hey Mechanic...
Instructions were certainly helpful, especially if you read them! My problem was...I didn't a lot of the time!

Probably many besides myself had the same problem!

But we survived and had a good time in the process!

Thanks for coming over today!

Marjie said...

Mr. Gilbert actually lived out his life in a brick mansion on Ridge Road in North Haven, CT, about 3 blocks from where my dearly beloved grew up. We looked into buying that house at one point, but there was not enough land around it. Funny that you should write about him today!

HermitJim said...

Hey Marjie...
You just never know what you may find when you come over to visit the Hermit!

I often say that I am a warehouse of almost useless information!

Funny how sometimes when you least expect it, something will pop up that can connect to you, isn't it?

Hey, thanks for coming by today!

Kyddryn said...

Good stuff, Mister Hermit, sir - Mum used to get into trouble for playing with her big brother's set when they were kids.

Erector sets have spawned all kinds of new toys...K'nex is the Evil Genius's current favorite, although he's right fond of Legos, too.

I wonder...how many futures were shaped by those bits of metal?

Shade and Sweetwater,

HermitJim said...

Hey K...
Hard to imagine how many young lives were touched in some fashion by toys like this! The number would surprise us all, I think!

You take care of yourself, my young friend!

Thanks for taking the time to visit!

Ashley said...

I've been considering getting the child an erector set for Christmas. She wouldn't be much interested in buildings and stuff, but they have some these days with the parts to build robots and stuff. Think she would like it?


HermitJim said...

Hey Ashley...
She is creative enough that she would probably find a lot of things to make with it!

Maybe she could build me a small cabin with a loft!

Couldn't hurt to see if she would like one.

Thanks for coming by today!