After graduating from Yale with a degree in medicine and earning an Olympic gold medal in the pole vault, A.C. Gilbert created the Erector Set, an engineering toy that enabled a young child to build such items as Ferris wheels and bridges. He later marketed a variety of other educational toys ranging from American Flyer trains to Mysto Magic sets, chemistry and telegraph sets. With his toys, Gilbert hoped to combine fun with an understanding and appreciation of science. Gilbert realized that a child needed playthings that would encourage creative expression and satisfy a natural curiosity about the world.
A.C. Gilbert was born in Salem, OR on February 15th, 1884. Today, his uncle's Victorian home, the A.C. Gilbert House, is one of three structures that house our museum's exhibits. A display of vintage Gilbert toys and inventions along with an exhibit chronicling his exciting life is located in the Parrish House. At the end of his life, A.C. Gilbert held 150 patents for his inventions. This creative genius that believed that "playing is essential to learning," serves as a wonderful inspiration and namesake for our hands-on, interactive museum.
The A.C. Gilbert Co. maintained factories in New Haven and Branford Connecticut along with their famed Gilbert Hall of Science, in New York City. Other cites such as Chicago and Washington, D.C., also had Halls of Science.
The New York Hall of Science had a massive train layout on the main floor along with displays of Erector and Science toys. On the second floor was another train layout not open to the public, it was reserved for salesmen, buyers and selected guests. Work shops and offices occupied the remaining floors. All the Halls of Science had been closed by 1966.
Gilbert in its hay day was one of the largest, best known and respected toy makers. It was also the largest manufacturer of fractional horsepower motors, holding the patent for enameled wire.
In 2003, a TV movie, "The Man Who Saved Christmas", was loosely based on the life of A.C. Gilbert, his development of Erector sets and his work to continue making toys during World War I.
Gilbert also produced many other toys, science sets, Polar Cub appliances, Puzzle Sets, Mysto Magic Sets, Chemistry Sets, Physics Sets, James Bond Sets, My Favorite Martian and many others.
As one of the premier toy manufacturers, with their most famous toy set, Erector, Gilbert was known around the world.