Gilbert Science Sets
My Experience with Gilbert Science Sets
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Boys Should be Boys!

Science and Magic Kits



Cover of the Mysto magic set
A.C. Gilbert Never Lost His Zest for Magic

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This page presents a brief summary of the marvelous Science and Magic kits sold by the Gilbert Company. In case you think that some of these things look "hokey" remember that there was no television or video games at the time they were sold.

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Button to send you to discussion of A. C. Gilbert    Button to send you to discussion of Erector Sets

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Some of you (i.e. folks coming in from Search Engines) have a very focused need for information. We have specially prepared the following list just for you.

Science Kits [THIS Page]

Overview of Chemistry, Microscope, Science, and Magic Kits


All About A.C. Gilbert [Separate Page]



Erector Sets [Separate Page]



The End of the Gilbert Company [Separate Page]

The Last Days of the Gilbert Company

Those with a general interest should just keep scrolling down




Chemistry Sets and Other Tools of the Devil

Mr. Gilbert had a very strong belief in the educational value of Science Kits. He felt that a wide variety of educational toys could bring out the engineer or scientist in any Boy and made a very broad array of kits to offer something that would have a special resonance with The Boy.

A.C. Gilbert Company  Toy for every boy advertisement

A Toy for Every Boy
Finding the one true vocation...
Click to Enlarge


Here is the cover of a brochure that covers the range of science kits that were available in the late 1930s -- it is intitled "How to Become" and offers the Boy a wide choice of careers. You can click here to download a full copy of the booklet.

A.C. Gilbert Company  How to become booklet

How to Become
The Boy could do it with some help from Dad...
and Mr. Gilbert...
Click to Enlarge


He hired his friends on the Yale faculty to write the manuals and achieved just the right mix of fun and science to influence generations of Boys.

A.C. Gilbert Company Ad for Boy Engineering    A.C. Gilbert Company Weather, and Hydraulic Sets

Boy Engineering

A.C. Gilbert Company Hydraulics Set    A.C. Gilbert Company  Hydraulic Set

The Actual Hydraulics Set (1960s "Safe" Version)
Imagine getting your kid to study Hydraulics or Weather...
Click to Enlarge


In addition, Mr. Gilbert never lost his enthusiasm for Magic. He continued to make Mysto Magic Sets and incororated illusion and entertainment into his science kits.



The Chemistry Set



Gilbert Chemistry Sets from the 1918 Catlogue

Gilbert Chemistry Sets
From the 1918 Catlogue
Click to Enlarge


Chemistry was a very big deal during the "Golden Age" of Gilbert Science Kits. In 1937-1938, Popular Mechanics ran an amazing four part spread on "Chemistry and You" that touched on all the marvelous ways that chemistry was making a better future for everyone. You might want to take a look at these articles to get an idea about what expectations that Parents and Boys had for Chemistry.

Popular mechanics serial on Chemistry and You, Part 1 December 1937    Popular mechanics serial on Chemistry and You, Part 2 January 1938    Popular mechanics serial on Chemistry and You, Part 3 February, 1938    Popular mechanics serial on Chemistry and You, Part 4 March 1938

Chemistry and You
Popular Mechanics November 1937 through March 1938
Click to Enlarge


We have scanned these articles and make them available to you for free download:

Why is it that Boys can be very constructive with the Erector Set and become utterly destructive with a Chemistry Set?

One would think that there is some male gene that wants to either make an explosion or a foul smell (or both...) I will plead guilty to this. On the day I got my Chemistry set, my friends and I became demolition experts. Gunpowder was fairly easy to make and we detonated home-made firecrackers, rockets, Molotov Cocktails, and pipe bombs with a regularity that might remind you of Baghdad today. The strange thing was that you could buy all the stuff you needed for gunpowder at the local drug store. If you got hold of a chemical catalog, you could send away for even more powerful substances. In fact, Experiment #1 in the Chemistry Manual indicates that Gilbert wanted to "get it over" before proceeding to Science:


Experiment No. 1 in the Gilbert Chemistry Manual
Experiment No. 1: Explosions
Telling the Boy not to make it bigger is like waving a red flag at a bull...

HOWEVER - at the time, the Gilbert Chemistry Set got the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval:


The Gilbert Chemistry Set wins the Good housekeeping seal
The Good Housekeeping Seal
Repair or Replacement Guaranteed

In today's Homeland Security Crisis Mentality, I'm not even going to mention the ingredients that we used, only to say that by the 9th grade, we were making three-foot deep craters and clearing out large rooms with stink bombs. Today, this kind of behavior is grounds for arrest and commitment to a nuthouse. Back then, it seemed to be the norm. When I was a freshman at Carnegie Tech, it seemed that all the National Merit Scholars had a homemade bomb story. All of these people grew up to be responsible scientists and engineers.

A.C. Gilbert Company Chemistry Manual Basic Set    A.C. Gilbert Company Complete Chemistry Manual    A.C. Gilbert Company Mineralogy Manual

Gilbert Chemistry and Mineralogy Book Covers
Left: the Manual for the Basic (Elementary) Set
Middle: The Complete (199pp) Chemistry Manual from the 1930s and 1940s (identical content)
Right: The Mineralogy Book
Click to Enlarge


I have scanned all three manuals shown above have placed them in the Free Download Section

Gilbert's successful approach to Boys used a mixture of entertainment and knowledge. If you place "Gilbert Chemistry set" into a search engine, you will find a large number of citations from scientists who got their start with one of these outfits. On the left is an ad for some of the more elaborate sets that feature testimonials from promising young scientists; on the right is an ad that shows how the Boys were drawn into a serious study of Chemistry.

A.C. Gilbert Company  Gilbert Chemistry Magic Booklet    A.C. Gilbert Company  Gilbert Chemistry Magic Booklet

A.C. Gilbert Company  Gilbert Chemistry Magic Booklet

Gilbert Chemistry Magic Booklet
Once a magician, always a magician...
You can have if for free regardless of what this dealer thinks it's worth...
Click to Enlarge


A recent (2010) online auction wanted $1,000 for this book, showing that there is no limits to the degree to which dealers believe in the gullibility of buyers. We have been able to obtain and scan a copy of Chemical Magic which you may download right now ABSOLUTELY FREE. It is a 62 page booklet which we have separated into four parts to minimize bandwidth usage. Please SAVE the file to your computer and then read it:


Mr. Gilbert always mixed a little entertainment in with his science. Here is another little booklet from the 1950s on tricks that can be performed with Chemistry -- it's largely the same material that is in Chemical Magic

 A.C. Gilbert Home Chemistry Booklet    A.C. Gilbert Home Chemistry Booklet

A.C. Gilbert Home Chemistry Booklet
Click to Enlarge

This is entitled Gilbert Home Chemistry. This 28-page softcover booklet was published in 1954 and is the size of a comic book (8" x 10"). As shown above, the booklet lists the chemical composition of various household items. Those of you with a science background will be somewhat amused at the number of "common household products" that are now listed as "hazardous substances." Additional sections describe how the Boy can put these compounds to good use, such as:

  • Christmas Experiments (colored fireplace flames from blue vitriol, copper sulfate, potassium permanganate, boric acid, and more!)
  • The Chemistry of Food
  • Home Kitchen Chemistry (testing silver plate, coloring soap with cochineal solution, dissolving grease)
  • Ink (recipes for blue, black, purple, carmine, green, and more inks)
  • Fermentation -- every Boy needs to learn how to make beer...
  • Essential Oils and Perfumes (making rose water, geranium water, lilac water, making incense)

If the Boy were to engage in almost any of these experiments today, he would be hauled in by the goons at Homeland Security.


Testimonials for the Gilbert Chemistry set    Testimonials for the Gilbert Chemistry set    Ad for the Gilbert Chemistry set stressing the entertainment aspect    Cover of the December 1932 issue of Popular Science

Master Chemistry Set with a bench

Testimonials for the Chemistry Set
We LOVE the "No. 15 Master Scientist Set"...
Kids got started because it was fun...
and they could capture the attention of their peers
You could even get a "professional lab bench"
Click to Enlarge


To be fair to the Boys of 1957, there was never any intent to harm normal American people; our targets were clumps of dirt or the ruins of a building long abandoned on the old Harmony Short Line. Generally, these experiments were justified as practice for what we would when the Reds invaded Pittsburgh. Iraq would seem like a picnic if someone should try to occupy the USA -- even today's over-socialized male children would switch on their "destroy" gene and go to work.

The Chemistry set MUST have been good because it was endorsed by SUPERMAN!


Superman visits the Gilbert Hall of Science
SUPERMAN Visits the Gilbert Hall of Science

Superman endorses the Chemistry Set
SUPERMAN Gives a Pass to the Chemistry Set
This little 32 page booklet sells for about $500 today....

Sometime during the 1960s, the Gilbert Company actually recognized the existence of girls -- but only as Lab Assistants. It should also be noted that this was the point in time when the Gilbert company began to go downhill...


The Gilbert Little Lab Assistant Kit
The Lab Assistant Kit
Click to Enlarge

Given this history, it was with some pleasure that I managed to find an old (c.1920) Gilbert Chemistry set in a wooden box. The box was in good shape and some of the chemicals were still present. However, someone had been using a candle and several test tubes and instruments were encased in wax.


A.C. Gilbert Company Wooden 1920s Chemistry Set The Exterior, as found   A.C. Gilbert Company Wooden 1920s Chemistry Set The Box Latch   A.C. Gilbert Company Wooden 1920s Chemistry Set

A 1920s Chemistry Set with Wood Box
(left)The Exterior, as found (middle) the Box Latch
(right) Next level higher set from the 1920s (not mine)


A.C. Gilbert Company Wooden 1920s Chemistry Set interior as found   A.C. Gilbert Company Wooden 1920s Chemistry Set interior as found   A.C. Gilbert Company Wooden 1920s Chemistry Set interior as found

The Melted Wax Mess
Click to Enlarge


With some amount of work, I was able to restore as much as was available. and had to "fill-in" places with modern test tubes. I did not want to replicate the chemicals that were in the original set. Rather, I scanned in a label and created the "Boys Ideal Chemistry Set" with Plutonium, d-Lysergic Acid, Trinitrotolulene,Tetrahydrocannabinol, and other unusual substances. You can find these "augmented" labels in the downloads section. There is also a blank label so that you can restore your set to full authenticity.


A.C. Gilbert Company Wooden 1920s Chemistry Set as restored

The Boys' Ideal Chemistry Set
Concerned Moms may faint....
Click to Enlarge


Those of you who may wish to accurately restore a Gilbert Chemistry set are in luck. A company called H.M.S. Beagle is selling a set of "Bench Mark Legacy Chemicals" that will provide you with a nice quantity of all 56 chemicals specified in the manual. To appease the Homeland Security goons, they are also accompanied by a "Materials Safety Data" (MSD) sheet that is required by Uncle Nanny to protect us from Achmed getting hold of some sodium chloride. (possibly to ruin soup in the school cafeteria.) Concerned Moms should be thrilled. The package cost about $125 in 2010.

In May, 2011, we got this very interesting note from our reader, Robert:

"... I had a chemistry set when I was kid, and now my daughter (age 7) is interested in Chemistry. I've bought all the chemicals from H M S Beagle and I'm pretty well set up, but one question remains: What is a "measure"? I remember a small shovel shaped piece of metal that was used to define a measure, but I don't have one now and I don't know how big it should be. My daughter and I have tried some of the experiments in the old Gilbert manual, but they didn't work, I think because the measurements are wrong. Do you have any idea? ..."

Indeed, Robert has hit on something, because the quantity of solids must match the quantity of liquids specified in the manual. This is what we are talking about:

A.C. Gilbert Company Wooden 1920s Chemistry Set showing Chemical measure    Excerpt from the chemistry manual about the Chemical measure

The Chemical Measure
... and spoon
Click to Enlarge


Fortunately, we have established a large network of Chemistry Set enthusiasts and we got this from Richard:

"... I photographed the measure from my old 1920's Gilbert set. I actually have sets from several decades, but the measure didn't change much in size from set to set. As you can see, it's a little spoon approx. 1/4" wide x 5/16" long with a total length of about 2 7/8". The amount of material it holds is about the size of a lentil or a small pea. I'm glad to see that Robert bought fresh chemicals from HMS Beagle since the old chemicals are usually DOA. It's so great that they have put together the chemicals from the old Gilbert sets so folks can do the experiments. It's how I started with my son at about the same age. I use a "micro spatula" from Mountain Home Biological supply in my own lab and have included a photo of it, as well. Mountain Home is a very nice company with an easy to use web site, focused on schools and hobbyists, which is a good source for many basic laboratory needs. The scoop end of the spatula is approximately the same size as the Gilbert measure, is stainless steel, and only costs $1.25. ..."

The Measuring Spoon from the Gilbert Chemistry Set

A.C. Gilbert Company Chemical measure Dimensions    A.C. Gilbert Chemistry Measure dimensions

The Chemical Measure and Spoon
Accurate scale photographs
Click to Enlarge


Click here to download the "legacy chemicals" brochure. It has a list of the 56 original (1936) Gilbert chemicals and their contemporary (2010) equivalent names.

We were very pleased to hear from our reader Bill from Ohio who sent along this photo of his Chemistry Set collection and a scan of the ChemCraft manual


Collection of Science Kits from the 1960s

Bill's Collection
We greatly envy that Master Chemist Set (Blue)....
Click to Enlarge


The Porter Chemical Company (of Hagerstown, MD) sold a large number of chemistry sets under the brand ChemCraft. Later, this brand was sold to the Ideal toy company which later merged with View Master.

  • Click here to download a copy of the Porter ChemCraft Manual (circa 1955)
  • Click here to download a copy of the Idela/ViewMaster ChemCraft 400 Manual (circa 1987) -- thanks to Reader Bob for this manual

Bill notes that there is a risk associated with giving kids a chemsitry set:

"... [The Boy could] turn out to be a mad scientist! See what playing with these toys could result in? Of course every mad scientist should have a monster lab...[as shown in the photos below]...and, of course, a sufficient quantity of ray guns for defending against any aliens..... ..."


Monster Lab Kits from the 1960s    Ray Gun Toys from the 1960s

Mad Scientist Inventory Checklist
The Govenment may be regulating these ray guns if you are reading this in 2050...
Click to Enlarge




The Gilbert Atomic Energy Kit



However, my "ideal" set is not that Far-Fetched -- the Gilbert Company actually sold a kit that included Uranium and Radioactive materials:


Gilbert U238 Atomic Energy Lab
The Gilbert U-238 Atomic Energy Lab
Just the thing for kids after a breakfast of high sugar cereal

The "Gilbert U-238 Atomic Energy Lab" was introduced by A.C. Gilbert in the spring of 1950 and sold for $42.50, a sum that would be equivalent to about $500 in 2010. Our reader Bill from Ohio was kind enough to send in some photos of his unusually complete Atomic Energy set


A.C. Gilbert Company Atomic Energy Set    A.C. Gilbert Company Atomic Energy Set

The Ruler in the Left Photo Shows the Relative Size of Items

A.C. Gilbert Company Atomic Energy Set A.C. Gilbert Company Atomic Energy Set Packing Slip

No Set is Complete Without the Packing Slip

A.C. Gilbert Company Atomic Energy Set    A.C. Gilbert Company Atomic Energy Set    A.C. Gilbert Company Atomic Energy Set

A.C. Gilbert Company Atomic Energy Set    A.C. Gilbert Company Atomic Energy Set    A.C. Gilbert Company Atomic Energy Set

Layout of the Atomic Energy Set
The Four Ore samples are (Clockwise from top left)
Torbernite; Uraninite; Autunite; and Carnotite
Click to Enlarge


The components include:

  1. Three very low-level radioactive sources (alpha, beta and gamma particles)
  2. Four uranium-bearing ore samples: Torbernite; Uraninite; Autunite; and Carnotite
  3. Geiger-Mueller radiation counter.
  4. Wilson Cloud Chamber to see paths of alpha particles.
  5. "Nuclear Spheres" for making models of molecules
  6. Spinthariscope to see "live" radioactive disintegration.
  7. Electroscope to measure radioactivity of different substances.
  8. An "Atomic Energy Manual"
  9. "Learn How Dagwood Splits the Atom" comic book (below)
  10. A book on "Prospecting for Uranium"
  11. A Packing Slip

Here are more details on the Spinthariscope and the Geiger Counter


A.C. Gilbert Company Atomic Energy Set, Spinthariscope    A.C. Gilbert Company  Atomic Energy Set, Geiger Counter

The Spinthariscope and Geiger Counter
Concerned Moms may have a heart attack....
Click to Enlarge


Here are some scans from the Manual showing the operation of the Wilson Cloud Chamber


A.C. Gilbert Company Atomic Energy Set, Manual on Cloud Chamber    A.C. Gilbert Company Atomic Energy Set, Manual on Cloud Chamber    A.C. Gilbert Company Atomic Energy Set, Manual on Cloud Chamber

The Cloud Chamber
This might have come from the lair of a Mad Scientist....
Click to Enlarge


We don't want to overlook the Dagwood Comic Book in which Mandrake the Magician is the Expert while Gen. Groves of the Manhattan Project is just the Technical Advisor..

Dagwood Splits the Atom cover   Dagwood Splits the Atom dagwood and mandrake

Dagwood Splits the Atom
Click here to download pages 1-11 of this comic book (3.2MB)
Click here to download pages 12-23 of this comic book (2.2 MB)
Click here to download pages 24-36 of this comic book (2.5 MB)

Here are some more excerpts from the Manual, which we have scanned and make available to you at no cost:


A.C. Gilbert Company Atomic Energy Set, Manual    A.C. Gilbert Company Atomic Energy Set, Manual    A.C. Gilbert Company Atomic Energy Set, Manual    A.C. Gilbert Company Atomic Energy Set, Manual

The Manual
Click to Enlarge Photos
Click Here to download Part ONE of the Manual
Click Here to download Part TWO of the Manual
Click Here to download Part THREE of the Manual


The "Nuclear Spheres" were just tinkertoy-type balls and sticks that could be joined together to make 3-d representations of molecules. In such a ball-and-stick model, each atom is represented by a ball, and chemical (usually covalent) bonds are represented by rods. Each ball is drilled with multiple holes, placed so that the rods can match the atom's bonding patterns typically seen in chemical compounds. Thus, for example, a sphere representing a carbon atom will have at least four holes directed towards the vertices of a tetrahedron, separated by angles of about 109 degrees. Ball-and-stick models clearly display the relative positions of the atoms and the chemical bonds between them. The photograph below (far left) shows a methane model constructed by Hoffmann in 1865. We have been fortunate to obtain a copy of the Instructions for making molecular models from the Atomic Energy Kit. We have scanned this document and make it available to you at no charge.


A.C. Gilbert Company Atomic Energy Set Molecule Model Instructions Hoffmann's 1865 Methane Model    A.C. Gilbert Company Atomic Energy Set Molecule Model Instructions   A.C. Gilbert Company Atomic Energy Set Molecule Model Instructions   

The "Nuclear Spheres"
Click to Enlarge Photos
Click Here to download the Manual for Making Molecule Models


None of this is the least bit harmful, but Concerned Moms and Product Safety Lawyers would have a field day if this set were to be offered today! I can assure you that (in 1957) if my friends and I had access to fissionable materials (and a heavy duty machine shop) there is absolutely no doubt that we would have built a thermonuclear device. There is some doubt as to whether we would have tested it...



The Microscope Set



I never did anything particularly destructive with the microscope set, although I looked at samples of almost everything. Insects were particularly attractive -- the Gilbert company gave you bees, flies, and fleas and the world of nature contained a vast number of new subjects.


Gilbert No. 20 Microscope set Boy and Fly
At age 9, a fly's foot is "hot"

For a while, we had a fling with micro-dots as a method of communicating secret messages. However, the time and effort needed to reduce something in the darkroom restricted this technique to VERY important messages. Besides, we were never able to get anything readable that was less than an inch in diameter. Home photography was not advanced in 1957. This is not an exaggeration: here is a quote from the Microscope Manual on Home Photography and The Microscope:


Gilbert Microscope Manual on Photography
Limits, Limits, Limits

Gilbert Microscope Manual on Photography
Check Up on The Family
Make Your Own Comparison Microscope

The single antisocial act committed with the microscope involved the slide with the dog flea. We asked one of the guys' sister to donate a strand of hair for "scientific comparison" of Girls' hair with Boys' hair. Of course, her specimen was laid over the flea. And, of course, she took one look and ran away screaming. After she washed her hair fifteen times, we got a thorough scolding from her Mom. Nobody said that nine-year old Boys were nice.

I was fortunate to find a Gilbert Microscope Kit from the late 1930s in fairly good shape -- the microscope still works! Some of the test tubes that held specimens have been lost, but by and large, it was all there. Here is what the Gilbert Company had to say about it:

"... The No. 20 Microscope Set --Huge scientist's laboratory, featuring a powerful precision Microscope which magnifies objects 120, 200 and 450 TIMES ACTUAL SIZE! Turret mechanism permits magnifications to be changed at will You can see colors hidden from view with ordinary scopes. Two steel test tube racks contain variety of chemicals and specimens; slide-out drawers contain assortment of slides and parts. Equipment also includes top stage and substage light for illumination of specimens-just like professional 'scopes. Dri-Electric Power Pack provides power source. Hand lens and alcohol lamp complete apparatus. Two illustrated manuals included. ..."

Gilbert No. 20 Microscope set exterior    Gilbert No. 20 Microscope Set Interior    Ad for the Polaroid attachment

The No. 20 Microscope Set, as found
(left) Exterior, (Green faux alligator)
(middle) The Interior
(right) Advetisement extolling the Polaroid Junior
Click to Enlarge


This set is really quite advanced. The Microscope has a turret that allows three levels of magnification. There are a number of light-polarizing (Polaroid) attachments that eliminate glare by assuring that all rays of light are normal (perpendicular) to the slide. The "Polaroid" attachment is touted in the ad shown above. Note that the Gilbert company offers a "weather flag" as an incentive to the child, giving him a method to use science to thwart parental control. It is only in the 21st Century that Mom's advice might have another meaning for elementary school children. Such is the way of social progress.

The objective stage is also illuminated! To do this, Gilbert used a metal bracket that took the place of the objective mirror. A small socket for a 3.5 volt (flashlight) bulb was wired into the bracket. The patented "Gilbert Dri-Electric Power Pack" supplied electricity. This mysterious device was just a tube (like the handle of a flashlight...) that holds two "D" cells. Here are some photos of this miracle of science in action:


Gilbert Microscope Power pack   Gilbert Microscope Power Pack showing D Cell   Gilbert Microscope Power pack illuminating bulb

The Power Pack in Action

Gilbert Microscope Power pack illuminating Objective Stage

The Lighted Objective Stage

The fully restored Microscope Set is shown below:


Gilbert Microscope set as restored
The Restored Microscope Set

Gilbert Microscope Set parts drawer   Gilbert Microscope Set slide drawer
The Drawers and Contents

There are a wide variety of tools for preparing all kinds of specimens:


Gilbert No. 20 Microscope Set Hand lens (graphic)   Gilbert No. 20 Microscope Hand Lens (photo)
The No. 20 Microscope Hand Lens

Gilbert No. 20 Microscope Set Tools (graphic)

Gilbert No. 20 Microscope Set Tools (photo)
The No. 20 Microscope Set Dissecting Tools

Gilbert No. 20 Microscope Set Microtome (graphic)   Gilbert No. 20 Microscope Set Microtome (photo)
The Microtome

This is a fairly sophisticated set that trains the Boy in most of the fundamentals of Microscope lab proceedure. It has been very well thought out! The Manual is 110 pages long and reads like a college textbook.


A.C. Gilbert Company no. 20 Microscope manual   A.C. Gilbert Company No 10 Microscope manual

The Microscope Manual
(left) 1950s (right) 1930s

I have scanned the full manual, and it is available in the Downloads Section in six roughly equal parts of about 3.0 MB each.

Postscript: I found a "Number 8" Microscope set from the same series at a flea market. Here is a photo of the box. The interior was pretty far gone.


Gilbert No. 8 Microscope Set
The Number Eight Set

Here is a microscope set similar to mine from the wooden box era. The equipment is basically the same save for the lighted objective stage on the microscope.


A.C. Gilbert Company Wooden 1920s Microscope set wooden box   A.C. Gilbert Company Wooden 1920s Microscope set unrestored interior   A.C. Gilbert Company Wooden 1920s Microscope set microscope   A.C. Gilbert Company Wooden 1920s Microscope set dissecting tools

A 1920s Microscope Set with Wood Box, unrestored condition
Click to enlarge



The Electric Eye Set



I never had an Electric Eye Set. I found this one at an estate sale and it is fairly old (probably from the 1930s) because it just uses photocells and relays. During the 1930s, photoelectric devices were brand new and a source of woner. To give you some backlground for the Electric Eye set, here is an article that appeared in the November, 1937 issue of Popular Mechanics with the alluring title "The Eye That Never Sleeps." (Compare this with the image on the Gilbert kit)


November 1937 Popular Mechanics article on Photoelectrics

"The Eye That Never Sleeps"
November 1937 Popular Mechanics article on Photoelectrics
Click here to download the whole article
Click to enlarge


The later ones used vacuum tubes and then transistors. This is a really nice set and would have been a real challenge to a Boy with interests in electronics. Considering that the Depression was raging, only a small number of well-to-do boys had this set.


Gilbert 1930s Electric Eye set exterior
The Exterior, as found -- I LOVE the graphic

Gilbert 1930s Electric Eye set contents
Contents of the Set -- Looks Scientific

Gilbert 1930s Electric Eye set Manual
The Instruction Manual -- the All-Seeing Eye

Gilbert 1930s Electric Eye set Photocell and Relay
Photocells and Relays -- no Amplification Using Tubes or Transistors

Gilbert 1930s Electric Eye set Circuit Diagram
The Circuit Diagram

"Batteries Not Included" is an exaggeration here -- the thing needs a 22 volt dry cell! Two "C" Cells in the Power Pack operate the low voltage relay, but the 22 volt battery is required to operate any kind of apparatus. The switch between the low voltage (sensitive) relay and the operating (power) relay) is a primitive form of amplification.


Gilbert 1930s Electric Eye set, circuit board
The Circuit Board (schematic)

Gilbert 1930s Electric Eye set Panel Supports
Support "Legs" for the Circuit Board

Gilbert 1930s Electric Eye set
Knife Switch for the 22V and 3.5 Volt Power Sources

Gilbert 1930s Electric Eye set, power pack
The 3 Volt Power Pack

Gilbert 1930s Electric Eye set,flashlight
The 5 Inch Flashlight (Light Source for Some Experiments)

Gilbert 1930s Electric Eye set after restoration
The Exterior, after restoration

The manual is a real hoot. Below, you will see some uses of the Electric Eye to make a Christmas Tree revolve or to automatically turn the radio on in the morning "..for your morning exercises.."


Gilbert Electric Eye set: controlling the Xmas Tree   Gilbert Electric Eye set: controlling the Radio

Various Uses of the Electric Eye
Jewish Kids Could Substitute a Menorah...

I have scanned this fascinating document and it is available in the Downloads Section (Aids to Restoration). The Manual is about 3.1 MB, so if you'd rather get it as an attachment to an e-mail, please contact me.

The set that I purchased contained another booklet entitled "Fun With Electricity" that described a wide variety of experiments involving electricity. Thanks to our reader John, we discovered that this booklet was intended to accompany a Gilbert Set that dealt with electricity.

Johns Elementary Electricity Set   Johns Elementary Electricity Set   Johns Elementary Electricity Set

John's Elementary Electricity Set
You had to have lots of batteries...
Click to Enlarge


I have scanned this brochure, and it is available in the Downloads Section (Aids to Restoration)in two roughly equal parts of about 3.0 MB each.

Here is an older electric eye set that we found. It has a cardboard box instead of a metal case, butthe components are roughly equivalent. The manual is identical with the version shown above.

A.C. Gilbert Company Electric Eye Set   A.C. Gilbert Company Electric Eye Set   A.C. Gilbert Company Electric Eye Set

Electric Eye Set
The only difference is the box...
Click to Enlarge




Physics Set



By the 1960s, the separate Optics and Hydraulics kits had been merged into a general Physics Set. Kudos to our friend Bill from Ohio who sent us these photos of a complete 1960s Gilbert Physics Set. As was the trend at that picture, a girl was shown on the box, although it looks like it is the Boy's younger sister.

A.C. Gilbert Company Physics Set    A.C. Gilbert Company Physics Set

1960s Physics Set
The >Girl makes an appearance...
Click to Enlarge


There were 70 pieces of apparatus enabling the budding Physicist to show Sis "hundreds" of experiments involving Solar heat, Light and Optics, Fluid Dynamics, Water and Air Pressure, and "many, many others." How many experiments do you think Sis actually sat through?



Metal Casting Set



This toy will cause most Concerned Moms to have an unexpected bowel movement. It actually allows the child to play with molten metal. The typical Yuppie Mom would blanch at the thought that their precious lawyer-to-be might be melting lead (!) to make toy soldiers! This, and the glass blowing set would be run out of the market faster than you can say "tort reform."

Here is a very early kit that shows a child that looks like he is between six and nine -- this one requires the Boy to use an open ladle of molten metal!

A.C. Gilbert Company Metal Casting Set Number One (box)   A.C. Gilbert Company Metal Casting Set Number One (contents)

Metal Casting Kit Number One
Molten Metal in the Hands of a Nine Year Old...
Click to Enlarge


Regardless of current politically correct thinking, the casting set was quite popular and a generation of boys in the 1930s made whole armies of lead. In addition, the equipment uses a fairly sophisticated die casting technique in which metal is poured into reusable metal molds. The kit offered a machine that handled most of the chores such as melting the lead and pouring into the mold.

A.C. Gilbert Company Metal Casting Set - description in 1937 Popular Science ad   A.C. Gilbert Company Metal Casting Set -- illustration of components

Ad for the Metal Casting Set (Popular Science, November, 1937
Instructions and Accessories for the Set
Click to Enlarge


The casting sets initially allowed the Boy to cast solid figures. Later, a technology known as "Slush Casting" was used to allow the casting of hollow objects -- at a great savings in metal.

A.C. Gilbert Company Metal Casting Set  Diagram of Casting Machine   A.C. Gilbert Company Metal Casting Set Casting Machine Top View   A.C. Gilbert Company Metal Casting Set - Side view

Diagram of Casting Machine
Most machines available today are pretty rusty
Click to Enlarge


The machine is fairly simple. With reference to the diagram above:

  • A: arm to tip the melting pot to pour into the Mold
  • B: lever to open and close the Mold Halves
  • D: Mold Halves
  • P: Clamps to hold the Mold Halves together
  • N: Lip of ladle
  • MP: Melting Pot
  • VR: Electrically heated rod that conveys resistance heat to the melting pot

Operation of the machine is shown in the Popular Science advertisement reproduced above.

A.C. Gilbert Company Metal Casting Set    A.C. Gilbert Company Metal Casting Set

A.C. Gilbert Company Metal Casting Set   A.C. Gilbert Company Metal casting Set   A.C. Gilbert Company Metal casting Set

A.C. Gilbert Company Metal casting Set   A.C. Gilbert Company Metal casting Set   A.C. Gilbert Company Metal casting Set

More Views of the Casting Machine
Viagra for Tort Lawyers...
Click to Enlarge


The Molds (Gilbert spelled the word "mould") were metal plates with the appropriate opening to create a figure. The mold had to be "lubricated" with candle soot to allow the cast object to be released properly.

A.C. Gilbert Company Metal Casting Set  Molds   A.C. Gilbert Company Metal Casting Set Molds   A.C. Gilbert Company Metal Casting Set Molds

Mechanism for the Molds
Click to Enlarge

Over the years, more than 50 figures were available including Military, Sports and Transportation subjects. The list of figures and prices in 1937 are shown below, along with an example of a casting of a mounted figure.

A.C. Gilbert Company Metal Casting Set   A.C. Gilbert Company Metal Casting Set   A.C. Gilbert Company Metal Casting Set

List of Molds and Price in 1937

A.C. Gilbert Company Metal Casting Set --- Cannon Mold   A.C. Gilbert Company Metal Casting Set  -- Battleship Mold   A.C. Gilbert Company Metal Casting Set  -- Airplane Mold

Cannon, Battleship, Airplane Molds

A.C. Gilbert Company Metal Casting Set -- Indian Figure Mold   A.C. Gilbert Company Metal Casting Set --- Cavalryman Figure Mold   A.C. Gilbert Company Metal Casting Set  --- Infantryman Figure Mold

Indian, Cavalryman, Infantryman Figure Molds

The Airplane Mold casts parts which have to be assembled to make the complete figure
Click to Enlarge


And, speaking of airplanes...



The Air-Kraft Set



A.C. Gilbert Company Air- Kraft Sets from the 1918 Catalogue

The Air-Kraft Set
in the 1918 Catalogue
Click to Enlarge


A. C. Gilbert's fascination with transportation continued with the Air-Kraft set, produced from 1928 to possibly as late as 1935.

A.C. Gilbert Company Air- Kraft Set    A.C. Gilbert Company Air- Kraft Set Monoplane Model in good condition

The Air-Kraft Set

Click to Enlarge


With this set, one could build a variety of airplanes with one or two wings, wheels or floats, and one, two or three AC-powered engines.

A.C. Gilbert Company Air- Kraft Set Float Plane Model    A.C. Gilbert Company Air- Kraft Set Float Plane Box    A.C. Gilbert Company Air- Kraft Set Parts List

The Multi-Engine Float Plane Air-Kraft Set

Click to Enlarge


The airplane was designed so it could be hung from a ceiling mount or a pylon.

A.C. Gilbert Company Air- Kraft Set Found Condition Kit    A.C. Gilbert Company Air- Kraft Set Manual    A.C. Gilbert Company Air- Kraft Set Found condition Model

The Monoplane Air-Kraft Set
In "found" condition
Click to Enlarge


The motor drew power from a wall or ceiling receptacle. An ingenious pivot system prevented the cord from becoming tangled. In thinking about the "Air-Kraft" kits, you should remember that they were being marketed in the period 1910-1916. Actual airplanes were not that much more sophisticated than the planes in the kit!



The Glass Blowing Set



A.C. Gilbert Company Glassblowing Set

The Glassblowing Set
Note the Boys playing in the foreground and Industry in the Background
Click to Enlarge


Here is another thing to give Mom agita. The Boy was encouraged to use molten glass to make a large number of interesting items and to perform 80 experiments.

A.C. Gilbert Company Glassblowing Set manual Cover    A.C. Gilbert Company Glassblowing Set Manual -- introduction    A.C. Gilbert Company Glassblowing Set manual - description of Industry

The Glassblowing Set Manual
Just in case you ever wanted to know how to make windowpanes...
Click to Enlarge


The Manual used the standard Gilbert formula of about half "magic tricks" and half hard science to teach glassblowing. At the time, this was apractical skill and even useful in College. Most universities required that Chemistry students learn glassblowing to make apparatus. These skills would have come in very handy during Freshman year.

There is a glass industry website that will let you read the entire manual on a page by page basis without the ability to download. Click Here to go to that site. However, we have also scanned our copy of the manual and have made it available for you to download in easy-to-digest 10 page segments of about 2 MB each:

  • Glass Blowing Manual Pages 11-20
  • Glass Blowing Manual Pages 31-40
  • Glass Blowing Manual Pages 51-60
  • Glass Blowing Manual

    The Hydraulics Set



     Gilbert Hydraulics Set     Gilbert Hydraulics Set

    Gilbert Hydraulics Set
    Click to Enlarge

    Apparently, it was possible to get The Boy interested in Hydraulics. The Boy Engineering book on this subject is a masterpiece that blends parlor tricks and gee-whiz military stuff like torpedoes, depth charges and zeppelins with some honest-to-gosh mathematical computations. This is a very well-written book and is probably above the heads of most non-engineering American adults in the 21st Century.

     Gilbert Hydraulics Set     Gilbert Hydraulics Set     Gilbert Hydraulics Set     Gilbert Hydraulics Set


     Gilbert Hydraulics Set     Gilbert Hydraulics Set     Gilbert Hydraulics Set

    Excerpts from the Gilbert Boy Engineering Manual for the Hydraulics Set
    "Hydraulics and Pneumatic Engineering
    Click to Enlarge


    Apparently, the Hydraulics Set was a perennial best seller because it was retained well into the 1960s in almost the same format as the 1920 original. Largely, only the graphics have been changed/

     Gilbert Hydraulics Set 1960s     Gilbert Hydraulics Set 1960s

    Gilbert Hydraulics Set in the 1960s
    Click to Enlarge

    The Hydraulics Boy Engineering Book may be read in its entirety by following these links:

    The obvious link between weather and the physics of water and air was not overlooked. In the late 1920s, one of the "Boy Engineering" books focused on Meterolology, as entitled The Gilbert Weather Bureau. The cover led the Boy to believe that he could set his own scientific Weather Station:

     Gilbert Weather Bureau Boy Engineering Series     Gilbert Weather Bureau Boy Engineering Series

    Gilbert Weather Bureau
    Click to Enlarge

    We have scanned our copy and have made it available in the Free Downloads Section.



    Communications Sets



     Gilbert Wireless Sets from the 1918 Catalogue

    Gilbert Wireless Sets
    From the 1918 Catalogue
    Click to Enlarge


    About the time of the First World War (1917-1919), the Gilbert company sold a number of sets devoted to communication, including Telephone, telgraph and Wireless. Perhaps the best of the sets is devoted to the process rather than the technology of communication. It aptly named the Signal Engineering Set.

     Gilbert Signal Engineering Set     Gilbert Signal Engineering Set

    Gilbert Signal Engineering Set
    Click to Enlarge

    This is one of the very best Gilbert science kits, not because of the equipment provided, but the clarity of the little instruction booklet. Here's what Mr. Gilbert had to say:

    "...I remember how I used to watch army men at signal practice. It was mighty fascinating to see them at the camp with their apparatus and to observe the methods they used to send messages. It looked hard, but when I thought it over it seemed very easy....

    "...Signaling will prove just as interesting to you as it did to me, and because I think it means a great amount of fun for you, I have had this book prepared by a man who was an expert in signals and who did very fine work in the Navy as a member of the Signal Corps. Every detail is explained with the greatest care. The facts are authentic and you can depend on this book to give you a thorough knowledge of signaling. You can learn about signals from the very beginning when firebrands were used in a primitive fashion many years ago to the present time when messages are flashed and sent by the most modern inventions..."

     Gilbert Signal Engineering Set     Gilbert Signal Engineering Set     Gilbert Signal Engineering Set

    Gilbert Signal Engineering Set

    Click to Enlarge


    The manual a real gem -- I'm proud to have it in my collection and I have gone out of my way to make sure that it is available to you. Through the magic of the Internet, you may read (only) the Signal Engineering Book by following these links:

    We have the entire 144 page document on the site in case you would like to Download the Gilbert Signal Engineering Book for your own purposes. TO REPEAT: this is 144 pages long DO NOT "OPEN" THE FILE -- Save it to your hard drive and read it without eating up bandwidth!

    Of course, the Gilbert Company did not slight the actual technology of communication. First, we'll look at the Telegraph Set. By 1917, wire-transmitted telegraphy was fairly "old hat" although the ulra-modern "wireless" (see below) still used Morse Code. Certainly, a knowledge of Morse Code would have been useful and thus, the telegraph set was a fairly big seller. With the Tele-Set, Boys could pretend that they were running a real telegraph office since the kit was supplied with replicat Wetern Union telegram blanks.

     Gilbert Signal Engineering Set Tele-Set     Gilbert Signal Engineering Set Telegraph key     Gilbert Signal Engineering Set Telegraph key

    The "Teleset" and telegraph key...

    Click to Enlarge


    However, Gilbert was not one to rest on his laurels -- he plunged ahead with both current (telephone) and futuristic (wireless) technology. Here is an ad that appeared in Boys Life, the official publication of the Boy Scouts of America.

     Gilbert Advertisement Octoer 1918 Issue of Boys Life     Gilbert Advertisement Octoer 1918 Issue of Boys Life

    Gilbert Ad in the October 1918 Issue of Boys LIfe
    Communications Technology for the Boy
    Click to Enlarge


    The wireless set uses an actual spark transmitter with a fairly limited range. Nonetheless, the technology in the Gilbert kit was virtually the same as used in commercial activities (with the sole exception of size). The 65 page instruction book would bring the Boy who had the patience to read it to the state of the art in 1918. Some time later, probably in the mid 1920s, the Gilbert company also sold a crystal radio receiver for Boys. At that time, home sets were not that much different from the Gilbert set, as tube amplifiers were just coming onto the scene.

     Gilbert Telephone Set     Gilbert Crystal set     Gilbert WIreless Set

    Telephone and Wireless

    Click to Enlarge


    The Gilbert Company offered the Boy the ability to build communications sets well into the 1960s, tailoring the projects to advances in technology. Here is something called the Erec-Tronics kit from 1959 that offered the Boy the opportunity to work with the [then] new transistor. The name is a portmanteau of "Erector" and "Electronics" propelling the Erector set into the space age. The set uses "plug board" technology so that the Boy did not have to do any soldering

     Gilbert Erectronics Set     Gilbert Erectronics Set

     Gilbert Erectronics Set     Gilbert Erectronics Set     Gilbert Erectronics Set

    The Erec-Tronics Set
    The Ad (top left) is from "Science leads the Way" which may be downloaded for free"
    click here for Part One
    click here for Part Two
    Click the photos to enlarge them




    The Magnetism Set



     Gilbert Magnetism Set

    Gilbert Magnetism Set
    Click to Enlarge

    Gilbert introduced his first magnetism set in 1923 and produced variations through the 1950s. By coincidence, A.C. Gilbert could trace his ancestory to William Gilbert (1544-1603), the English physician whose De Magnete was the first modern study of magnetism in nature. The book Magnetic Fun and Facts encouraged The Boy to explore magnetic phenomena, although no theory is presented. Here's a quote:

    "...Magnetism is one of the fundamental elements of our society today. Magnets can be found in any electric motor, refrigerators, tools and utensils, and even some games. Magnets have two poles, the north and south poles. When two like poles are put together, they repel, but when unlike poles are put together, they attract each other. In the atoms (the smallest particles of matter) of all materials, there are electrons revolving around the nucleus of the atom. Each electron is a small magnet. However, in unmagnetized materials, the electrons are all jumbled up. In a magnet, the electrons are all lined up, creating a magnetic force. In magnetic materials, like iron, the electrons can be lined up when in the presence of a magnet..."

     Gilbert Magnetism Set     Gilbert Magnetism Set     Gilbert Magnetism Set

    Variety of Gilbert Magnetism Sets sold in the 1920s
    Click to Enlarge

    The "high value" portion of the set is the manual, entitled "Magnetic Fun and Facts" (Written by Carleton Lynde). Here are a few illustrations from the book. Note that the Boy is pictured on the cover of the set as he pushes his "magnetic navy" around while simultaneously learning about polarity.

     Gilbert Magnetism Set     Gilbert Magnetism Set     Gilbert Magnetism Set

    Simple Magnetic Experiments
    Click to Enlarge

    Here are the cover and Table of Contents of the book

     Cover of book Magnetic Fun and Facts     Cover of book Magnetic Fun and Facts

    Magnetic Fun and Facts
    Use the Table of Contents to select what you want to download (below)
    Click to Enlarge


    We have scanned Magnetic Fun and Facts into small easty-to-download bits, which you may select from the following list:



    The War Toys



    Gilbert War Toys from the 1918 Catlogue

    Gilbert War Toys
    From the 1918 Catlogue
    Click to Enlarge


    Yes, Mr. Gilbert of "save Christmas" fame made War Toys. Concerned Moms may dump a load when they find out that he made a very realistic Toy Machine Gun.

    A.C. Gilbert Company Machine Gun    A.C. Gilbert Company Machine Gun Advertisement

    The Machine Gun
    The ad says:
    Has all the features of Real Machine Guns -
    Detachable Magazine, Clip for 13 Cartridges, Air-cooled Chamber, Firing Crank,
    Automatic Traverse Elevation, Elevating Crang, Full Circle Swivel, etc.
    Works fast as lighning - 10 shots per second. Gun is mounted on a heavy tripod.
    Manual, free with every gun, contains instructions for organizing a Machine Gun Company
    Click to Enlarge

    At the height of World War I -- perhaps the greatest carnage man has ever known, the Gilbert Company sold a working machine gun that fired wood bullets! Contrast that with today: On July 5, 2009, the Washington Post ran a letter from a Concerned Mom who objected to the printing of a picture of a firearm. She didn't want her "two year old son" to be unduly influenced.

    Literary Digest ad for the A.C. Gilbert Company Machine gun    Patent for the the A.C. Gilbert Company Machine gun no 1310613

    Literary Digest Ad for the Machine Gun
    And Patent for the Machine Gun (No 1,310,613)
    Click to Enlarge


    The other major surprise here is that the advertsement for the Machine Gun was printed in The Literary Digest! If you want to make your own, use this link to download the Complete Patent Description. Beware of the ATF and Concerned Moms.

    Literary Digest ad for the A.C. Gilbert G-150 Submarine    Patent for the the A.C. Gilbert Company G-150 Submarine no 1351565

    Literary Digest Ad for the Submarine
    And Patent for the Submarine (No 1,351,565)
    Click here to download the full patent for the Submarine
    Click to Enlarge


    The Gilbert company also manufactured a very realistic submarine. These things were made of pressed metal and were intended to be operated in water. Due to the nature of rust, very few of these are available today.



    The Miniature Machinery Set



    A.C. Gilbert Company Catalogue Entry for the Miniature Machinery Set 1920s

    1920s Catalogue Page featuring the Miniature Machinery Set
    They actually worked just like thereal thing!
    The complete set cost $25 in 1922 - equialent to $800 in 2011
    Click to enlarge

    The Gilbert Company offered a set of miniature machine tools -- a lathe, drill press, punch press, grinder, and scroll saw -- that actually worked like their real-world counterparts. The lathe was about six inches long and three inches high as an example. The tools could be driven by an electric motor. Shafting, held by "A-Frames," was used to interconnect the machinery, again much like a real world machine shop. This is one of the most astounding of the Gilbert toys and is one of the rarest.

    A.C. Gilbert Company Miniature Machines Set- 1920s Open    A.C. Gilbert Company Miniature machinery set 1920s closed    A.C. Gilbert Company Miniature Machinery Set closed

    The Miniature Machinery Set
    (left) a complete set
    (right) Set offered for sale, missing the "A-Frames"
    Click to enlarge

    If you are thinking of buying this set, please make sure that you have all the parts!



    The Optics Set



    A.C. Gilbert Company Large Optics Set - 1920s Open    A.C. Gilbert Company Large Optics Set 1920s closed    A.C. Gilbert Company Large Optics Set 1920s closed

    A.C. Gilbert Company Small Optics Set - 1920s Open A.C. Gilbert Company Small Optics Set 1920s details

    Large and Small Optics Sets from the 1920s

    A.C. Gilbert Company Optics Set 1940s

    Optics Set from the 1940s
    Click to Enlarge

    This was not kid stuff. Here are some sample pages from the manual entitled "Gilbert Light Experiments For Boys." There was no "dumbing down" in Gilbert's view of the Boy. In the 1920s, there were no "Self-Esteem" trophies. Every Boy was assumed to be capable until he proved otherwise. The popularity of these kits proved that 10 year olds are capable of a whole lot more than is generally assumed.

    A.C. Gilbert Company Optics Set -- Cover to Manual    A.C. Gilbert Company Optics Set -- Detecting Subs from Airplanes    A.C. Gilbert Company Optics Set - technical discussion of light

    From the Optics Set Manual
    They got the Subs right
    They got the "ether" wrong (pink)...
    Click to Enlarge


    The manual raised the possiblity of detecting submarines from the air when both subs and planes were in their infancy. Mosst of this stuff is still correct today. The glaring error is mention of the "Ether" (pink) as the stuff that filled all the spaces between the atoms. Alas, the Michelson-Morley Experiment disproved this notion once and for all, and paved the way for modern theories of how light operates. Click Here to download a copy of the Manual for the Optics Set.

    A.C. Gilbert Company Optics Set - reflecting telescope

    The Gilbert Telescope
    Click to Enlarge

    In conjunction with the Optics sets, Gilbert also sold fairly high quality reflecting telescopes.



    The Sound Experiments Set



    In 1920, Gilbert produced a science kit that taught the fundamentals of Sound. These kits were elegantly designed, but very few survive -- I have never even seen a photograph of one. The kit sold for $10 in 1920 which would be equivalent to something like $320 in 2010 purchasing power. In other words, they were beyond the reach of most Boys.

    A.C. Gilbert Company Sound Experiments Set    A.C. Gilbert Company Sound Experiments Set    A.C. Gilbert Company Sound Experiments Set    A.C. Gilbert Company Sound Experiments Set

    The Gilbert Sound Experiments Set
    (left) Ad from Boy's Life, October 1920
    $10 was a lot of money in 1920
    Click to Enlarge


    The fortunate few boys who did get a "Sound Experiments" set had the opportunity to read a very well-written manual and to perform some very interesting experiments. In keeping with Mr. Gilbert's philosophy, straight science is also accompanied with "Boy Fun" things like ventriloquism or breaking a glass with sound. Right now, you can read the manual because we have scanned it and now make it available to you for free in six easy-todownload parts:

    Download the Free copy of Gilbert Sound Experiments



    The Soldering Set



    A.C. Gilbert Company Soldering set in the 1918 Catalogue

    The Soldering Set
    From the 1918 catalogue
    Click to Enlarge


    Here's another one to turn Concerned Moms' hair gray. This kit actually equipped the Boy with a red-hot soldering iron.

    A.C. Gilbert Company Soldering set Set

    The Soldering Set Set

    Click to Enlarge


    In those times, soldering was avery useful skill in a lot of trades such as roofing, tinsmithing, jewelry and electrical work. In fact, this kit gave many a Boy a leg up in search of a trade. Little lawyers wouldn't know one end of the soldering iron from the other. Lots of Chinese kids know about this stuff.



    Erector Brik Set



    A.C. Gilbert Company Erector Brik Set and Brik-Tor from the 1918 catalogue

    Gilbert Block Building Systems
    From the 1918 Catalogue
    Click to Enlarge


    The Gilbert Company made a "block-building" set from its earliest days until the mid-1950s.

    A.C. Gilbert Company Erector Brik Set and Brik-Tor    A.C. Gilbert Company Erector Brik Set and Brik-Tor

    Gilbert Block Building Systems
    Sort of like Lego
    Click to Enlarge


    Originally, they were called "Brik-Tor" sort of a portmanteau for "Brick Consructor". Later, they were called "Erector-Brik" capitalizing on the famous "Erector" marque.

    A.C. Gilbert Company Erector Brik Set -- Cover    A.C. Gilbert Company Erector Brik Set -- contents    A.C. Gilbert Company Erector Brik Set -- instructions

    Erector Briks
    Click to Enlarge

    In the early days of the Gilbert Company, it appears that the Boy was encouraged to buy a Brik-Tor set to cover the outside of models constructed with the Erector set, hoping to duplicate the process of construction in the real world.

    A.C. Gilbert Company Brik-Tor set    A.C. Gilbert Company Erector Brik Set Closeup of ad Popular Science vol 89 1916    A.C. Gilbert Company Erector Brik Set -- Brik-tor ad Popular Science vol 89 1916

    Erector Briks
    Click to Enlarge

    The bricks themselves did not lock together and large structures were somewhat unstable. The bricks were made of a composition material that tended to crumble over time. Lego was a great improvement over this system; sincle Lego tiles lock together, models of almost infinite size have been made.

    The Gilbert Company experimented with locking tiles and briefly old a system called "Anchor Blocks" as shown below. These sets are fairly rare and were only made for a few years in the 1920s.

    A.C. Gilbert Company Erector Anchor Block Set No. 4    A.C. Gilbert Company Erector Anchor Block Set No. 4

    Anchor Blocks
    Click to Enlarge



    Big Boy Tool Set



    A.C. Gilbert Company  Big Boy Tool Set in the 1918 catalogue

    Gilbert Carpentry Sets
    From the 1918 Catalogue Click to Enlarge

    "BOYS! Here's your chance to give Mother and Dad a real surprise. Build furniture, airplanes, toys, birdhouses, and hundreds of other things...

    A.C. Gilbert Company Ad for the Big Boy Tool Set

    A.C. Gilbert Company Ad for the Big Boy Tool Set
    Click to Enlarge

    "...Lift the lid of the big red brass-bound Tool Chest and you open up a new world of exciting thrills. Call in your pals. Oh, boy! How their eyes will pop!..."

    Thus began the opening sales pitch for the Gilbert "Big Boy" tool chest. Actually, the chests came in "Boys Sizes" ($1-$5) and "Dad Sizes" ($10-$25) It should be noted that the "red brass-bound chest only came with the $25 set (#790).

    A.C. Gilbert Company Discussion of Boy Carpenters    A.C. Gilbert Company  Big Boy Tool Set 1909 Version

    Boy Carpenters
    Click to Enlarge

    According to our analysis of costs in the 1920s, the #790 set would cost about $750 today. The Boys sets would cost from $30 to $150, so we are talking some serious money here. If you wanted to get the "Motor Driven Machine Shop" (something that looks like an electric drill/lathe combination), you would have to shell out an additional $35 ($900 today!) There was also a jigsaw (see below) This was serious money then and is serious money now.

    A.C. Gilbert Company Big Boy Tool Set Outer Box Graphic    A.C. Gilbert Company Big Boy Tool Set Inner Box Graphic    A.C. Gilbert Company Big Boy Tool Set Contents

    The Big Boy Tool Set
    Probably #765
    Click to Enlarge


    Of all the Gilbert products, the Tool Chests raise the most questions in my mind, because during the "Golden Age" most households had a full complement of tools, especially hammers, saws and screwdrivers. No doubt, the "Boys Sets" had tools that were sized correctly for kids younger than 10; presumably the "Dad Sized" Big Boy chests had the adult version of the tools. If you wanted to spend the money, you could even get a set that looked like a workbench.

    Ad forthe A.C. Gilbert Company Big Boy Tool Set in the form of a workbench

    A.C. Gilbert Company Big Boy Tool Set in the form of a workbench    A.C. Gilbert Company Big Boy Tool Set in the form of a workbench

    A.C. Gilbert Company Big Boy Tool Set in the form of a workbench    A.C. Gilbert Company Big Boy Tool Set in the form of a workbench

    The Biggest Sets Had a Workbench
    You could also get a jigsaw...
    Thanks very much to our friend Laurie for sending these pictures! This is a very rare item!
    Click to Enlarge


    The graphics thoroughly overstate the contents of the smaller sets. In fact, the carpenter's apron featured so prominently in the ads is only included in the "Dad Size." The "Brass-Bound chest" that will have impact on the eyes of the "pals" isn't included until you get near the top of the line.

    Ad for comparable tool sets sold by Sears in comparison with the A.C. Gilbert Company Big Boy Tool Sets    Ad for comparable tool sets sold by Sears in comparison with the A.C. Gilbert Company Big Boy Tool Sets

    Ads for Comparable Tool Sets Sold by Sears
    From the 1930 Catalogue
    Click to Enlarge


    I wondered what the possible benefits of buying the Gilbert Tool Chests would be over, say, just buying the individual tools. So, I took the #701E set (13 pc) and used the 1930 Sears Catalogue to get an estimate of the retail price of the individual components. This is shown below.

    Retail Cost of the A.C. Gilbert Company Big Boy Tool Set Contents

    Retail Cost of the components in the Big Boy Tool Set
    For Set 701E
    Click to Enlarge


    The ad (above) is for 1929 and I only had the 1930 Sears Catalogue, so there is some error in the comparison. However, the 1920 costs are not that much different, so we can be relatively sure that it would have cost about $3.00 to buy (at retail) the adult equivalent of a Gilbert tool set that cost $1.50. Since retail markups are about 100%, my guess is that the wholesale value of the tools is about $1.50. The following pictures should help you judge the quality of the tools in the "Big Boy" sets (left) against actual carpenter's tools from that period (right).

    Retail Cost of the A.C. Gilbert Company Big Boy Tools compared with actual tools -- wood planes    Retail Cost of the A.C. Gilbert Company Big Boy Tools compared with actual tools -- actual Stanley plane    Retail Cost of the A.C. Gilbert Company Big Boy Tools compared with actual tools -- Brace and Bit    Retail Cost of the A.C. Gilbert Company Big Boy Tools compared with actual tools -- actual period brace and bit

    Planes and Braces

    Retail Cost of the A.C. Gilbert Company Big Boy Tools compared with actual tools -- Levels    Retail Cost of the A.C. Gilbert Company Big Boy Tools compared with actual tools -- Real Stanley Level    Retail Cost of the A.C. Gilbert Company Big Boy Tools compared with actual tools -- Pliers    Retail Cost of the A.C. Gilbert Company Big Boy Tools compared with actual tools -- period carpenters pliers

    Levels and Pliers

    Retail Cost of the A.C. Gilbert Company Big Boy Tools compared with actual tools --  Coping Saw    Retail Cost of the A.C. Gilbert Company Big Boy Tools compared with actual tools -- Period carpenters coping saw    Retail Cost of the A.C. Gilbert Company Big Boy Tools compared with actual tools -- Hand Saw    Retail Cost of the A.C. Gilbert Company Big Boy Tools compared with actual tools -- Period Stanley Hand Saw

    Hand Saws and Coping Saws

    Retail Cost of the A.C. Gilbert Company Big Boy Tools compared with actual tools -- Sanding Block    Retail Cost of the A.C. Gilbert Company Big Boy Tools compared with actual tools --    Retail Cost of the A.C. Gilbert Company Big Boy Tools compared with actual tools --

    Miscellaneous Tools

    Click to Enlarge

    Mr. Gilbert's profit lay in the difference between regular Sears "Craftsman" grade tools and the "Boys" tools actually included in the set. It should be noted that my analysis is severely limited by the fact that I do not have an exact listing of the contents for each of the various tool chests. If any of my readers have this information, I would be delighted to hear from them -- feel free to Contact Me.

    A.C. Gilbert Company Big Boy Tool Set Model 765 Case only    A.C. Gilbert Company Big Boy Tool Set Model 765 Tools (partial)    A.C. Gilbert Company Big Boy Tool Set Model 765 (red case)

    The Model 765 Big Boy Tool Set
    Tool Set is not complete
    Click to Enlarge


    This is the Model 765 tool set, the top of the line for the "Boy's Sizes". The 1929 ad states that the chest should be red, and the natural wood version might be from an earlier period, since it is clearly labeled "765".

    A.C. Gilbert Company Big Boy Tool Set Dads Size    A.C. Gilbert Company Big Boy Tool Set Dads Size    A.C. Gilbert Company Big Boy Tool Set Dads Size

     A.C. Gilbert Company Big Boy Tools chest Brass Bound BoxA>    
<A HREF=A.C. Gilbert Company Big Boy Tools -- No. 18 Set     A.C. Gilbert Company Big Boy Tools --

    "Dad's Size" Big Boy Tool Sets
    Tool Sets are not complete
    Click to Enlarge


    Above, you'll find some photos of a "Dad Sized" chest, possibly #780, the beginning of that series. I note that the chisels have socket handles which is desirable, because the handle will fit tighter as the tool is used. This is a desirable feature and is generally more costly than the tang handle. In my opinion, these are not the highest quality tools. On the other hand, the apparatus in the chemistry or microscope sets was not of the highest quality either. I still have trouble understanding why a Boy would want to spend money on something like this when Dad probably had all these tools to begin with.

    A.C. Gilbert Company Big Boy Tool Set Blue Case    A.C. Gilbert Company Big Boy Tool Set  Red Case    A.C. Gilbert Company Big Boy Tool Set (Green case)

    Big Boy Tool Sets in Metal Cases
    Blue, Red and Green
    Click to Enlarge


    Above are some photos of Big Boy tool sets in metal cases, probably from the 1940s. It appears that documentation of the Tool Sets is slight compared to the Erector sets. If you have scans of manuals, parts lists, etc, please think about sending them to me so that I can make them available on the site. If you know how to authenticate Gilbert tools, agan, please let me know! You can really help the next guy who wants to buy one of these things! I don't charge anything for the downloads or information.

    A.C. Gilbert Company  Carpentry Manual Cover    A.C. Gilbert Company Carpenter manual Discussion of Wood    A.C. Gilbert Company Carpentry manual - Use of Tools    A.C. Gilbert Company Carp[entry Manual Plans for a Wheelbarrow

    Pages from the Carpentry Manual
    Cover, Woods, Tools and Plans
    Click to Enlarge


    One of our readers responded to the challenge and sent us the manual for one of the tool sets. We have scanned it and it is now available for download. Since it has 83 pages, we are making it available in small bits so that you can download it faster.

    • Part One: Introduction, Types of Wood (pp 1-13)
    • Part Two:Finishes, Chisels, Saws, Planes (pp 14-27)
    • Part Three: Drills, Hammers, Fasteners, Joinery (pp 28-41)
    • Part Four: Plans: Doll Bed, Bird House, Trellis, Automobile Cart, Checker Table, Foot Bench (pp 42-55)
    • Part Five:Plans: Camp Stool, Magazine Rack, scooter, wheelbarrow (pp 56-69)
    • Part Six:Marking Gauge, Armchair, Animal Trap, Workbench (pp 70-83)
    • Part Seven:End Notes and Ads (pp 84-End)
    • Occasionally, files held on the server may be corrupted-- if you find that this is the case with your download, please contact me and I'll send you the correct file.


    The Elementary Electricity Set



    Catalogue page for the A.C. Gilbert Company Elementary Electricity Sets

    The Elementary Electricity Sets
    From the 1918 Catalogue
    Click to Enlarge


    In 1916, the Gilbert company satd that:".. With a Gilbert Electrical Set and a fine book on electricty, boys can do elecroplating, install electric bells, elecric lights, make a real electric motor, and perform many feats of electrical magic...". All this for kits ranging in price from $2 to $20 (about $60 to $600 today)

    A.C. Gilbert Company Elementary Electricity Set    1916 Ad for A.C. Gilbert Company Elementary Electricity Set    Cover of the Dec 1919 issue of Popular mechanics with ad for the A.C. Gilbert Company Elementary Electricity Set

    The Elementary Electricity Set
    Feats of Electrical Magic!
    Click to Enlarge


    This is a very simple kit that shows the Boy how to connect a number of useful and educational circuits. The 1916 manual for the set is highly prized and often sells for more than $100 in online auctions.

    A.C. Gilbert Company Electricity Set -- Cover of Everyday Engineering, december 1918    A.C. Gilbert Company Electricity  Set - advertisement for technical-scientific kits

    The Virtues of the Electricity Set
    Advertisement from Everyday Engineering, December 1918
    Click to Enlarge


    Just in case you can't read the ad, here is the text:

    Gilbert Chemical and Electrical Outfits

    Telegraph, Telephone and Wireless Sets

    The wonders of electricity and chemistry the things that have made the reputation of Edison, Bell, Marconi and other great men can be learned by the boy who has a Gilbert telephone, telegraph or wireless set, or an electrical or chemistry outfit. New discoveries and inventions, as great as those of the past, are going to be made by boys who commence to study these things now. They are going to be the Edisons of tomorrow. These Gilbert sets are practical working outfits with which you can learn a great deal, and at the same time have great fun.

    Perform Experiments Learn the Secrets of Electricity

    • GILBERT CHEMISTRY OUTFITS-A real wonder set with chemistry manual and laboratory apparatus. With it you can make disappearing ink, fire without matches, pour milk from a bottle full of water, make soap and many other things. Prices $2.50 to $5.00. In Canada $3.75 to $7.50.
    • GILBERT ELECTRICAL SETS-Complete with manual. With it you can make your own electric motor, do electroplating, install electric bells, wire for telephones, etc. Sets from $1 to $10. In Canada $1.50 to $15.00.
    • GILBERT TELE-SET-A complete working telegraph outfit and manual of instructions. Price $2.50. In Canada $3.75.
    • GILBERT PHONO-SET-A practical electrically operated telephone set that can be used from house to house or over longer distances. Price $5.00. In Canada $7.50.

    The Gilbert Sets are thoroughly made and are for sale by all dealers. Write for the Gilbert Catalog which illustrates and describes fully these and many other Gilbert Toys. Prices subject to change without notice.



    The Erector Illumination Set



    A.C. Gilbert Company Erector Illumination Set

    The Erector Illumination Set

    Click to Enlarge


    It looks like the Gilbert company put together a few wires, sockets and light bulbs to convince Boys that they could light up their Erector models.

    A.C. Gilbert Company Smoke and Sound Add-on for Erector Sets    A.C. Gilbert Company Smoke and Sound Add-on for Erector Sets

    Smoke and Sound Add-on for Erector Sets
    Click to Enlarge

    Building on knowledge and technology from the American Flyer Trains, the Gilbert folks came up with a kit that would add realistic sound and smoke to Erector projects.



    The Gilbert New Wheel Toy



    A.C. Gilbert Company New Wheel Toy A.C. Gilbert Company New Wheel Toy

    A.C. Gilbert New Wheel Toy
    From the 1918 Catalogue
    Click to Enlarge


    Mr. Gilbert looked around and saw that Boys would cobble together almost any old parts to make a scooter, coaster, wagon or other "vehicle". Most likely, the wheels came off a discarded item like a perambulator. In many cases, the wheels didn't even match in size. Gilbert invented an "all purpose wheel" that bore a strange resemblance to baby buggy wheels. He then packaged these along with axles, cotter pins, brackets and the like that would enable the Boy to make any number of fanciful vehicles.

    A.C. Gilbert Company New Wheel Toy ad in Boys Life June 1920    A.C. Gilbert Company New Wheel Toy Patent D-55136 for  the all purpose wheel

    The Toy and the Wheel
    Ad from the June 1920 issue of Boys Life
    Design Patent D-55,136 for the All Purpose Wheel
    Click to Enlarge


    Apparently, the Boy was supposed to supply the wooden parts. The toy was heavy and came in a thin wooden box that breaks easily. As a result, there are very, very few mint condition "New Wheel Toy" sets. This is an expensive and hard-to-find item, suitable only for the most avid collector. If you have one, insure it.

    A.C. Gilbert Company New Wheel Toy    A.C. Gilbert Company New Wheel Toy

    A.C. Gilbert New Wheel Toy
    From the 1918 Catalogue
    Click to Enlarge


    I don't know how, but Mr. Gilbert managed to get patents for things like a scooter, a wheelbarrow and a wagon. It has to do with the nature of the connectors and parts rather than the overall design, but it does seem odd.

    A.C. Gilbert Company New Wheel Toy Cart Patent No. 1527973    A.C. Gilbert Company New Wheel Toy Sled Patent No. 1424011    A.C. Gilbert Company New Wheel Toy Scooter Patent No. 1472164    A.C. Gilbert Company New Wheel Toy Wheelbarrow Patent No. 1457972

    A.C. Gilbert New Wheel Toy Patents
    Toy Cart Patent No. 1,527,973
    Toy Sled Patent No. 1,424,011
    Toy Scooter Patent No. 1,472,164
    Toy Wheelbarrow Patent No. 1,457,972
    Click to Enlarge


    Just in case you are curious about how Mr. Gilbert was able to patent these mundane toys, we are making the complete patent description available to you at no cost.

    • Click Here to download the Patent for the Special Wheel
    • Click Here to download the Patent for the Cart
    • Click Here to download the Patent for the Sled
    • Click Here to download the Patent for the Scooter
    • Click Here to download the Patent for the Wheelbarrow


    66 Stunts with an Electric Motor



    A.C. Gilbert Company Stunts  Electric Motors Available

    A.C. Gilbert Electric Motors
    From the 1918 Catalogue
    Click to Enlarge


    The original motorized Erector Sets required the Boy to assemble the electric motor from parts. This appears to be akit that features just the motor and not the girders.

    A.C. Gilbert Company Stunts With an Electric Motor Set    A.C. Gilbert Company Stunts With an Electric Motor Set    A.C. Gilbert Company Stunts With an Electric Motor Set

    Stunts With an Electric Motor
    Click to Enlarge

    The same graphic on the box is used in the ad from an engineering publication.



    Mysto Magic Set



    A.C. Gilbert Magic and Puzzle kits from the 1918 Catalogue

    Magic and Puzzles
    From the 1918 Catalogue
    Click to Enlarge


    Gilbert started out in Magic and never lost his flair for it. He continued to manufacture Mysto Magic Sets, and never failed to include some form of entertaining illusion in his Science sets. (see the Electricity set, below).

    A.C. Gilbert Company Mysto magic Set    A.C. Gilbert Company Coin Tricks Instruction Book

    Magic and Coin Tricks
    Click to Enlarge

    Gilbert even included in his basic kit a checklist of the tricks that might be prformed at "Parties, Smokers and Stage Entertainment", indicating that the Boy could be ready for the Big Time in no time if he bought and mastered the kit.

    A.C. Gilbert Company Magic Set Instructions for Handherchief Tricks    A.C. Gilbert Company Magic Set Instructions for Knot Tricks    A.C. Gilbert Company Magic Set - Instruction Booklet    A.C. Gilbert Company Magic Set - Magician's Checklist

    More Mysto Magic Books

    right: Magician's Checklist

    A.C. Gilbert Company Magic Set Closeup    A.C. Gilbert Company Magic Set Closeup    A.C. Gilbert Company Magic Set Instructions    A.C. Gilbert Company Magic Set Buddha Money Mystery    A.C. Gilbert Company Magic Set - wire puzzles

    Components of the Mysto Magic Set
    Click to Enlarge

    You may learn more about the Mysto Magic Set by downloading the Mysto Instruction book (free of charge, of course.) All you have to do is Click here.

    A.C. Gilbert Company Knots and Splices Set    A.C. Gilbert Company Knots and Splices Set

    The Knots and Splices Set
    Click to Enlarge

    Mr. Gilbert also sold some more specialized magic kits, such as the "Knots and Splices" set shown above. These kits are fairly rare. However,we have been very fortunate to obtain a copy of the manuals for these sets, including not only Knots and Splices but also Handkerchief Tricks and Coin Tricks. We do not have a copy of the instruction manual for the very rare Card Tricks set. If you have such a manual, please consider scanning it and sending it to us, so that we may make it available to the public. For the time being, we are including an article on "Simple Card Tricks" that appeared in the May, 1937 issue of Popular Mechanics.

    A.C. Gilbert Company Card Tricks Set    Popular Mechanics Card Tricks Article

    The Card Tricks Set
    Very rare...
    For the time being, you can download the Popular Mechanics article on Card Tricks
    Click to Enlarge


    We have scanned the three manuals that we have and offer them for your reading pleasure; we have split them into four sections each so that they will download quickly. Click on the hyperlinks below to download each of the various sections.

    Gilbert was very good about giving names to the tricks, such as the "Multiplying Coin Protoplasmic Mystery", "Responsive Mystery Block", "Buddha Money Mystery","Hiding Chessman", "Galloping Dime, "Topsy Turvy Match", and "Pencil in the Buttonhole." The tricks advanced the Boy's vocabulary as well as developing manual dexterity and understanding of people.

    Gilbert also used magic in promotional items -- here is a trick designed to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Gilbert Company called the "Holetite Pencil"

    A.C. Gilbert Company Holetite Pencil Magic Trick    A.C. Gilbert Company Holetite Pencil Magic Trick

    A.C. Gilbert Company Holetite Pencil
    Fifty years of Gilbert Products
    Click to Enlarge


    Gilbert also includes some of his twisted wire puzzles (see below) with his magic kits.



    Gilbert "Puzzles"



    A.C. Gilbert Company Party Puzzles Set Box    A.C. Gilbert Company Party Puzzles Set Layout    A.C. Gilbert Company Party Puzzles Set Instructions

    The Party Puzzles Set
    Sold as a group or individually.
    (right): Click here to download the instructions for the Party Puzzles set
    Click to Enlarge


    Mr. Gilbert never lost his interest in entertainment. The Boy had to have fun as well as learn something. These puzzles were an exercise in manual dexterity -- and (unitendedly) prepared the Boy for the various occupational tests that were administered by Industry. Several of these puzzles actually appeared on the Army General Classification Test used to screen recruits.

    A.C. Gilbert Company Puzzle -- wishbone    A.C. Gilbert Company Puzzle -- nails

    A.C. Gilbert Company Puzzle links

    Individual Puzzles
    Click to Enlarge

    The puzzles involved separating wires or nails that appeared to be inextricably twisted together. Fortunately, Mr. Gilbert also provided "The Trick" to solving the puzzle. This is sort of "SAT Coaching" 1910 style.

    A.C. Gilbert Company Puzzle Manual Cover    A.C. Gilbert Company Puzzle Manual

    A.C. Gilbert Company Puzzle Manual    A.C. Gilbert Company Puzzle Manual

    Excerpts from the Puzzle Manual
    Click to Enlarge

    In addition to twisted wires, the Gilbert company also offered "Hand Puzzles" -- this was a glass-topped cardboard box with some loose items inside. The object was to carefully maneuver the box to cause the objects into slots or holes or onto pegs. This typoe of hand puzzle is quite similar to the "Game Boy" portable video game of today.

    A.C. Gilbert Company Dexterity Puzzle Set    A.C. Gilbert Company Dexterity Puzzle Instructions    A.C. Gilbert Company Dexterity Puzzle Package    A.C. Gilbert Company Meteor Game

    A.C. Gilbert Company Puzzle - rods and gears    A.C. Gilbert Company Puzzle  Atom Bomb    A.C. Gilbert Company Puzzle Hungry Pup

    A.C. Gilbert Company Puzzle Radio Tube    A.C. Gilbert Company Puzzle Ring a peg    A.C. Gilbert Company Puzzle Rivets

    Gilbert Hand Puzzles
    The "Atom Bomb" is the middle of the middle row
    Click to Enlarge


    Our favorite is the "Atom Bomb Puzzle" in which the Boy was supposed to cause a capsule-like token to fit into holes corresponding to Hiroshima and Nagasaki in a map of Japan. No political correctness in 1945..

    At the end of the Gilbert Company's life, the hand puzzles remained, but it looks like a large committee of Concerned Moms go told of them. However, the "Atom Bomb" puzzle managed to sneak through amongst the remaining insipid items.

    A.C. Gilbert Company 1960s vesion hand puzzles    A.C. Gilbert Company 1960s vesion hand puzzles    A.C. Gilbert Company 1960s vesion hand puzzles

    A.C. Gilbert Company 1960s vesion hand puzzles

    Latter-Day Gilbert Hand Puzzles
    The "Atom Bomb" is the middle of the first row
    now targeted at a battleship since the Japanese are our BFFs...
    Everybody hum the "One World" song from Sesame Street
    Click to Enlarge


    Contemporary (c. 2010) versions of the hand puzzles might include: "Nuke the Ayatollah", "Seal the Border", "Plug the Oil Leak", and "Perfect Date for Ms. Career Woman."



    Gilbert Balloon-Making Kit



    This is a very rare kit that enabled the Boy (and his Sister, if the pictures are right) to "Make Balloons from Liquid Rubber."

    A.C. Gilbert Company Balloon Making Kit    A.C. Gilbert Company Balloon Making Kit

    Click to Enlarge

    Our reader Dewey wrote to us with this explnation:

    "... It contains a pamphlet of instructions, two balloon molds, two jars of liquid latex, one can of talcum powder, two stands (one plugs into a light fixture so that it heats the balloon mold and latex), a stirring rod and a tweezer-like tool. The jar is opened and the latex is stirred slowly to mix the coloring agent. Talcum powder is rubbed on the balloon mold. This will help the balloon to be removed later. The balloon mold in dipped into the liquid latex and then placed upright on the heater stand. The heater stand is plugged into a light bulb fixture so that the stand/mold/latex gets heated. The heat causes the latex to vulcanize and become rubber. At the appointed time, the rubber balloon is removed from the mold. ...

    Below is a photo of Dewey's own set and a copy of the patent drawing for the process that underlies the kit.

    Deweys A.C. Gilbert Company Balloon Making Kit     Faber and Seal patent No 790,941

    Dewey's Balloon-Making Kit
    Faber and Seal Patent No 790,941
    Click to Enlarge




    Gilbert "Pak-O-Fun Moovy Sho"



    This is a very unusual toy from the 1920s. It is one of the very few Gilbert toys that does not use proper spelling. In addition, the typography on the box suggests a kid who is having trouble forming letters. At that time one of the techniques for showing that something was for (or done by kids) was to use phonetic spelling and mal-formed letters (such as a mirror-image letter "N") - it is, however, unusual that Gilbert would use such a device because he always wrote for an audience of Boys who could read, write and spell. (as we have seen above, some of the manuals are written at college level.)

    A.C. Gilbert Company 1920s Animation Kit Pak-o-Fun Moovy Sho    A.C. Gilbert Company 1920s Animation Kit Pak-o-Fun Moovy Sho

    Pak-O-Fun Moovy Sho
    This form of "animation" wasn't that much different from the Penny Arcades -- the "films" are just shorter
    Click to Enlarge


    The set has all the fundamentals of animation -- the only problem is that the "films" are only four frames long. YES, it is a "moovy" albeit a very short one. The system uses cellophane "slides" that have four slightly different image. Each image is illuminated by its own 1 Watt bulb. The cellophane strip is placed in a curved chamber so that each image is projected on to the same spot on a cloth screen. The bulbs are lit by using a probe to touch each of four contact points laid out as sectors of a circle.

    A.C. Gilbert Company 1920s Animation Kit Pak-o-Fun Moovy Sho    A.C. Gilbert Company 1920s Animation Kit Pak-o-Fun Moovy Sho    A.C. Gilbert Company 1920s Animation Kit Pak-o-Fun Moovy Sho

    Pak-O-Fun Moovy Sho Technology
    Just run the probe around the contact
    Click to Enlarge


    The animation subjects are fairly mundane: a Cowboy twirling a lasso, a big fish eating a little fish, a man getting bitten by a mosquito... On the other hand, the set illustrates the basic nature of animation, including "Critical Flicker Frequency" (about 19 frames/sec) by which the eye perceives motion and not separate images. The kid could amuse himself by running the probe around the contact at different speeds, running it backward, etc. With blank cellophane and India ink, the Boy could make his own animations. [Right now, I am thinking that the definition of "microsecond" is the time after opening the box that it took for the Boy to hit on the idea of making a pornographic animation....]



    This toy is often compared with the Kenner Give a Show toy (above). This would be inaccurate, because the Gilbert Toy explores true animation while the Kenner toy is just a slide projector.



    Gilbert "String Riders"



    In 1938, the Gilbert Company bought the rights to the American Flyer electric trains from the American Flyer Manufacturing Co. in Chicago. The company had begun in 1906, manufacturing Clock Work trains and later Wide Gauge and "O" Gauge Electric Trains. Declining sales and profitability forced the sale to Gilbert. Along with the trains, Gilbert acquired a number of other toys, among which are these colorful "String Riders".

    A.C. Gilbert Company String Riders    A.C. Gilbert Company String Riders

    In Operation and Size

    A.C. Gilbert Company String Riders    A.C. Gilbert Company String Riders    A.C. Gilbert Company String Riders

    "Roosevelt Bear", Boy, Girl

    A.C. Gilbert Company String Riders    A.C. Gilbert Company String Riders    A.C. Gilbert Company String Riders

    Policeman, Turtleneck, "Charlie Chaplin"

    Gilbert String Riders
    They are very colorful and collectable
    Click to Enlarge


    The String Riders do just that -- they ride down a stretched piece of twine -- the arrangement causes the feet to appear to be pedaling. Although their colors are very charming, I fail to see how a toy like this managed to hold the attention of a child for very long...




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