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A.C. Gilbert were founded in Connecticut, USA in 1909 and patented and started selling their metal "Erector" sets in 1913, the same year that Meccano Ltd. set up an offshoot company in the US.

The company started out selling magic sets under the "Mysto" name, and like Meccano, had a founder/inventor with a strong personality and a strong interest in education (Alfred Carlton Gilbert, 1884-1961). Also like Meccano, Gilbert branched out into new avenues such as chemistry sets and metal train sets (which in Gilbert's case was achieved by buying the "American Flyer" brand) in the late 1930s.

Like Meccano Ltd., A.C. Gilbert had trouble adjusting to post-war marketplace pressures caused by the introduction of cheaper plastic mouldings for toys and model railways, and the company was sold on not long after the death of its founder.


Gilbert's metal construction sets initially concentrated on reproducing "zig-zag" girderwork used in temporary building construction works, hence the brand name "Erector", but later Erector sets were obviously Meccano-based.

The most famous Erector model is probably Gilbert's "Hudson Locomotive" set, Number "A", which built an impressively large black New York locomotive, but A.C. Gilbert are also remembered for the "Electric Eye" electrical sets, which included a photosensor that allowed built models to respond to nearby movement.

1917 advertising text:

Hello Boys!

Here's a straight tip for you. You don't have to be told about the loads of fun you can have building models of battleships, flying machines, cranes, sky-scrapers, farming machinery. etc. Every regular fellow knows it. But — the important thing to keep in mind when buying a construction toy set is: Will your models look real – will the battleship that you build look like a regular member of Uncle Sam's floating flotilla, or will you have to hang a sign on it saying, "This is a battleship"? You know, making Erector what it is has been serious to me. I guess I've never got over being a boy, myself, I know the importance of having things genuine.

Most toy-makers are satisfied to get the first impression. But I know how a boy feels– when he realizes his toy isn't true – that the steel-work in his toy skyscraper isn't like the real building he saw or that his toy engine won't work – why, he's hurt! He's done with it! Fellows! I know what I'm talking about when I tell you to be sure to get ERECTOR "The Toy like Structural Steel" and there are hundreds of thousands of other fellows who will second my motion. The square four-sided Erector girder is the thing – it's in a class by itself – it's absolutely necessary if you want models of battleships that look like battleship skscrapers that look like skyscrapers, and hundreds ofother models that look like the things they represent.

What's the use of building stuff if it doesn't look real? The answer is: Get Erector!

Look at the battleship shown here. Isn't it a crackerjack with its skeleton fighting turrets and gigantic guns that can be turned in any direction? Wouldn't you like to own it, wouldn't you enjoy building it, and wouldn't you enjoy showing it to your friends? There's no limit to the fine things you can build with Erector, and no limit to the size of your models because you can constantly add to your first set with new Erector parts.

Boys, tell your parents you want Erector this year for Christmas. It will give you the finest kind of fun and you'll never grow tired of it.

Learn all about the Gilbert Engineering Institute for Boys – how you can get free membership how you can get free membership in it and win handsome Diplomas, Degrees, Gold Fraternity Pins, Gold Watches, Thirty Dollars in Salary, etc. Mail back the coupon now for a free copy of my beautiful book, "How to Become a Gilbert Master Engineer", which tells the whole interesting story. I will also send you a free copy of my magazine for boys, "Gilbert Toy Tips". Mail back the coupon now before you forget.

The A. C. Gilbert Company
101 Blatchley Avenue NEW HAVEN, CONN.

— , Gilbert Toys, , Popular Mechanics, , 1917

A.C. Gilbert and Meccano

Gilbert bought Meccano's American offshoot company in ~1929, which allowed them to sell the Meccano designs in the US. Gilbert originally sold these sets as "American Meccano", but ultimately ended up selling "Erector" sets based on American-variant Meccano under the Gilbert name.

In another confusing company takeover typical of the time, Meccano's owners then bought out its US rival brand in the 1960s, and the "Erector" sets currently on sale are "modern" Meccano sets rebranded for the US market, with slightly modified packaging (to the extent that the current "Erector" logo is deliberately styled to look like the current "Meccano" logo). Due to further company takeovers and local marketing, information on "modern" Erector (Meccano) sets can also be found under the names Nikko Erector, Schylling Erector and Brio Erector.

Mae West

The "Hello Boys!" slogan used in Gilbert's early advertising appears to predate Mae West's adoption of it as her catchphrase, suggesting that perhaps West might have been inspired by the Gilbert advertising. At the time she was participating in stage magic routines, so the idea that she might have seen Gilbert's adverts for their magic tricks isn't entirely unreasonable.

External links

Erector, A.C. Gilbert:

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Media in category ‘Gilbert’

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