Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

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October 16, 2013

The toy that changed the way children play

The commute from New York City to New Haven by rail was tedious, at best, in 1911.

Yet, it would be on one such trip that manufacturing mogul Alfred Carlton Gilbert would find the inspiration that would garner him a spot in toy making history.

Taking his idea from the equipment used by workmen electrifying the tracks along his daily route, he envisioned a conglomeration of miniature metal beams, pullies, gears and wheels that could be assembled and disassembled into dozens of differing forms. A motorized toy that would be “educational, instructive and amusing” – a toy that would become the heart of the first major advertising campaign in American toy manufacturing history.

In 1913 that toy was released as the “Erector Structural Steel and Electro-Mechanical Builder.” Today we know it as the “Erector Set.”

While building sets had existed for some time, the erector set produced in 1913 by the Mysto Manufacturing Company (reorganized in 1916 as the A. C Gilbert Company) was the first to include a motor. This innovation to steel building sets would be just one of many transformations the toy would see through its long history.

Knowing these changes through the years can be most helpful in determining the age. One of the easiest way to identify older sets is by their packaging. From 1916 to 1932, the sets were sold in wooden boxes; from 1933 to 1962 those were replaced by steel boxes painted in red, green or blue, and from 1950 forward all boxes were painted red.

Age can also be approximated by the changes in Erector sets through the years. 1924 saw the introduction of the first curved girders which allowed for the construction of trucks, Zeppelins and Ferris Wheels. The largest Erector ever produced {and a must have to collectors} came with the release of the 150-pound #10 set, appropriately nicknamed “The Climax of Erector Glory.”

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