ALFRED CARLTON “A.C.” GILBERT

 

1884
Born in Salem, Oregon

1900
Attends Pacific University in Forest Grove, OR

1908
Breaks world record for pole vaulting
Wins gold medal for pole vaulting in London Olympic Games
Marries Mary Tompson

1909
Graduates from Yale with a degree in medicine Establishes the Mysto Manufacturing Co. with John Petrie

1913
Erector Set introduced at toy fairs in New York and Chicago

1935
Introduction of Gilbert’s microscope set

1938
Gilbert purchases rights to American Flyer trains

1943
Gilbert Company receives first of four Army-Navy “E” awards for its participation in the war effort

1946
American Flyer “S” gauge trains introduced

1961
A. C. Gilbert dies – held 150 patents

A. C. Gilbert was born in Salem, Oregon on February 15, 1884. In 1900, at the age of 16, Gilbert attended Tualatin Academy, a prep school for Pacific Academy in Forest Grove. In 1903, Gilbert transferred to Yale University and studied medicine, planning to use his degree to become a coach. To help pay his tuition, Gilbert performed the magic tricks he learned as a child, often making as much as $100 a night. Gilbert and his friend, John Petrie, began to manufacture the magic sets in a tool shed in Westville, Connecticut.

Early in 1911, Gilbert got the idea for his Erector Set while riding a train from New Haven to New York. Railroad crews from New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad were raising new power lines that would convert the train from steam to electricity. Gilbert was fascinated by the architecture of the steel towers that carried the power lines. Gilbert and his wife cut out some cardboard girders and worked with them until the pieces fit together and could be used to build a variety of objects.

Gilbert’s educational sets revolutionized the toy industry. He was one of the first toymakers who believed that playing was essential to learning. Gilbert sensed the possibilities of scientific toys which would enable a child to play with ideas and hypotheses, and at the same time teach them about the laws of physics, engineering, and nature.

The Man Who Saved Christmas – 1918

In World War I, Gilbert testified before the U. S. Council of Defense on behalf of the toy industry, after Congress declared a moratorium on the manufacturing of toys.

Gilbert testified that not only were these construction toys valuable learning tools, but they showed the long-term effects of fostering inventiveness, creativity, ingenuity, and problem solving abilities.

Gilbert told Congress that we must take care of our current human resources, “our children,” for the perpetuity of American ingenuity and the value of learning.