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Secret origins of retro toys

Frank Lloyd Wright, Oil Heat and Bolivian Cults – The origins of some great retro toys. I like the story behind the erector set –

Because of the market pressures of World War I, the United States Council of National Defense was considering a ban on toy manufacturing. Amazingly, one man’s impassioned speech successfully stopped that from happening.

Alfred Carlton Gilbert was known as “Man Who Saved Christmas.” (There’s even a movie starring Jason Alexander in the title role.) But Gilbert was more than just a gifted orator, he was truly a renaissance man. He was an amateur magician, a trained doctor, an Olympic Gold Medallist (in the pole vault), a famous toy inventor and Co-Founder of the Toy Manufacturers of America. Most famously, however, he was the man behind the Erector Set.

Introduced in 1913 with the catchy name The Mysto Erector Structural Steel Builder, the toy was based on Gilbert’s observation of how power line towers were constructed. The quickly retitled Erector Sets sold well and were limited only by a child’s imagination as to what could be built. But “The Man Who Saved Christmas” (who also held over 150 patents) wasn’t a one-trick pony. His other inventions included model trains, glass blowing kits (think about the liability today!), chemistry sets (one chemistry set was even designed specifically for girls) and in 1951 (during the cold war) he even introduced a miniature Atomic Energy Lab with three very low-level radioactive sources and a real working Geiger counter. Now there’s a toy even a real patriot could love.

mental_floss Blog » The Secrets Behind Your Favorite Toys – [via] Link.

6 thoughts on “Secret origins of retro toys

  1. ” the toy was based on Gilbert’s observation of how power line towers were constructed”
    ..or based on the observation of Frank Hornby´s Meccano , that was patented in 1901 ( ) : same parts , proportions and even more or less identical sizes , I believe.

    Meccano was selling world wide from 1908 , and established their second factory in 1914.

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