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A. C. Gilbert U-238 Atomic Energy Lab

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Alfred Carlton Gilbert

A. C. Gilbert is best known as the inventor of the Erector Set. Aside from being an inventor, he had many other impressive achievements throughout his life. He was a gold medal winning pole vaulter at the 1908 Olympics in London and is credited with creating the modern pole vaulter's "box." Gilbert was well known as an outdoorsman and big game hunter. While a medical student at Yale University, he came to be known as an accomplished magician. Upon graduating Yale in 1909, he decided not to practice medicine, deciding instead to produce magic sets with a partner. This company was known as the Mysto Manufacturing Co., which eventually became the A. C. Gilbert Company, with its headquarters at Erector Square in New Haven, Connecticut. Gilbert was one of the original founders and the first president of the Toy Manufacturers of America. The A. C. Gilbert Company quickly became the leader in boys' construction sets and scientific toys. They also made wide variety of small motorized appliances and eventually purchased the American Flyer line of trains. At one point Gilbert was the number one producer of fractional horsepower motors in the world. Gilbert first introduced his famous Erector Sets at the 1913 Toy Fair in New York City. More than 30 million were sold over the next 50 years. A. C. Gilbert was known for his innovative advertising. He was recognized for originating many employee benefits now widely accepted in the workplace. The A. C. Gilbert Company folded a few years after Gilbert's death in 1961, but great interest in his toys lives on today.






"The most spectacular of our new educational toys was the Gilbert Atomic Energy Laboratory. This was a top job, the result of much experimentation and hard work. We were unofficially encouraged by the government, who thought that our set would aid in public understanding of atomic energy and stress its constructive side. We had the great help of some of the country's best nuclear physicists and worked closely with M.I.T. in it's development.

There was nothing phony about our Atomic Energy laboratory. It was genuine, and it was also safe. We used radioactive materials in the set, but none that might conceivably prove dangerous. There was a Geiger-Mueller Counter. It was accurate; a carefully designed and manufactured instrument that could actually be used in prospecting for radioactive materials. The Atomic Energy lab also contained a cloud chamber in which the paths of alpha particles traveling at 12,000 miles a second could be seen; a spinthariscope showing the results of radioactive disintegration on a fluorescent screen; an electroscope that measured the radioactivity of different substances.

It caused quite a sensation at the Toy Fair and received a great deal of publicity. But there were difficulties. It had to be priced very high--$50.00--and even at that price we managed to lose a little money on every one sold. The Atomic Energy Lab was also the most thoroughly scientific toy we had ever produced, and only boys with a great deal of education could understand it. It was not suitable for the same age groups as our simpler chemistry and microscope sets, for instance, and you could not manufacture such a thing as a beginner's atomic energy lab. So we had to drop this wonderful new addition to our line of educational toys--and toy has never seemed to me to be the right word to apply to such things. We adapted some of its features so that they could be added to our largest chemistry set--using the spinthariscope, some radioactive ore, and the atomic energy manual."



The preceding text is
an excerpt from A. C. Gilbert's autobiography:
"The Man Who Lives In Paradise"
Rinehard & Company













Dear Boys and Girls,
Never before in the history of our nation have there been so many opportunities and rewards offered to young men and women who are trained scientists.
Engineers, chemists, doctors, biologists, botanists, physicists, astronomers--these and many more such professionals are working on projects of great importance to our future and the future of the entire free world. 
There are literally thousands upon thousands of scientists today who became interested in their careers years ago through a Gilbert Science Set.
Such a set can, indeed, become a stepping stone to a great future for you.  Don't let the opportunity pass of seeing what a Gilbert Erector, Chemistry, or other Science Set can do for you.  Visit you Gilbert dealer as soon as you can.
Your friend,
A.C. Gilbert


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Click here to visit the A. C. Gilbert Heritage Society

Frank J. Leskovitz