Category:Meccano USA

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Meccano Company, Inc. was set up by Frank Hornby to be the US arm of the company.

Frank initially had very high hopes of how well Meccano would penetrate the US market – after all, weren't Americans besotted with engineering, and didn't Americans practically worship the idea of the lone inventor?

Well, yes ... but they already had an engineering toymaker hero in the shape of A.C. Gilbert, a one-time Olympic athlete, who had branched out into producing magic sets, and had then invented Erector, a metal construction set based on pressed braced girders. Gilbert was a home-grown inventor, and the sense of patriotism that helped fuel the high profile of Frank Hornby's image in the UK, transposed to the US, gave Gilbert the "home advantage" rather than foreign outsider Hornby.

Hornby recognised that Meccano needed to have some sort of presence in the US, otherwise the "vacuum" would be filled by someone else, and he spent years prosecuting the makers of American Model Builder, a product that copied Meccano right down to the instruction manuals and model designs. Although Hornby had success with his court case against AMB, and managed to persuade the American judge to side with a Britsh company against an American one, the amount of Hornby's time and energy that he had to devote to the case left him less time for learnign about the US market. Although Hornby acquired a nice new factory in the early 1920s, in Elizabeth, New Jersey, the factory seems to have been demolished at the end of the decade to make way for an extension to Interstate Highway One.

At this point, Hornby seems to have given up and sold the US Meccano business to Gilbert, who then developed American Meccano, and increasingly incorporated Meccano-style pieces into their Erector construction set, until Erector basically evolved into the US version of Meccano, and Gilbert phased out Meccano as a redundant product.

Ironically, some time after Gilbert themselves went bust, the rights to Meccano and Erector were acquired by Meccano France, who now market modern Meccano sets under both the "Meccano" and "Erector" names, depending on which country the sets are being sold in ... so although Gilbert took over the "Meccano" brand in the US and merged it into Erector, Meccano (France) later took over the "Erector" name and used it for rebadged Meccano.