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The Eli Whitney Museum’s annual hands-on exhibition of American Flyer Trains opens Friday, November 25th at noon. The exhibition features classic toy trains produced by New Haven’s A.C. Gilbert Company that still run beautifully after 50 years.
This year’s exhibition is dedicated to Herb Pearce (1916 – 2011), a prominent leader at the A.C. Gilbert Company from 1935 – 1958 and a pre-eminent leader in New Haven. Herb’s drive and generosity helped preserve the Gilbert story.
A special portion of the exhibition deals with the Ferris Wheel in a tribute to Dr Alfred Charles Richard (1937 – 2016), a scholar, artist, and a passionate Erector collector and builder.
Learn more and see a complete schedule on EliWhitney.org.
I have acquired a part stamped A C Gilbert Co. P-17B165. It is heavy duty, the top has the markings of a compass. I originally thought it may have been a nautical or some sort of industrial piece. Upon researching this piece I have stumbled across an amazing piece of American history. I can be reached through email if there is a collector that is interested in this piece. Best wishes, Vicki Chaney (email@example.com).
Hello! I am writing to say that my mom and I have a nearly complete No. 4 set from 1915 or 1916. Many of the pieces have not been separated from each other with their original metal fastenings. I think that there are only three pieces missing, and I believe that two of those have been missing since the kit was delivered because someone in the past had taken an inventory of parts. We are hoping to sell this set and we are wondering the best way to go about this and also how we might appraise the set. It is all in fine condition with the original manuals, motor, and box. Thank you for your time! All the best, Toby Cain (firstname.lastname@example.org).
I came across a beautiful Busy B fan with a green Art Deco design. The motor is shot, so I am looking for a replacement. Would this be something you might be able to help with? Thanks, Paul Avery (email@example.com).
312 American Flyer (B1047 on box). I also have the 625, 627, 630, and 632 cars with track (3/16″) and transformer. The last time I used them, they all worked fine – many years ago. I stored them and I think they are in very good to excellent condition. I think they were bought in 1946 (I was 10 – now 80). What is there value and how can I put them to good use? It would be a shame to not use somehow! Ken Thompson (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Follow the Comments link above for additional Gilbert Exchange questions and comments. Items posted to The Gilbert Exchange will be removed after 30 days.
Park City, UT—Silver Dollar Press, a division of Lucky Penny Publishing, has published the autobiography of A.C. Gilbert, a native of Salem, Oregon, as an eBook—a format targeted to a new generation of readers. The Man Who Lives in Paradise: The Autobiography of A. C. Gilbert tells the story of an individual best-known as the inventor of the Erector Set, the Gilbert Chemistry Set, and the maker of American Flyer toy trains.
A lifelong inventor, Gilbert acquired over 150 patents during his career—an accomplishment resulting in his recent induction into the American Manufacturing Hall of Fame in October 2015. Gilbert was also an adventurer and athlete, winning a 1908 Olympic Gold Medal in pole-vaulting and setting several world records in other sports. Most importantly, he changed the way toys—and boys—were made, influencing the development of several generations of young people.
His autobiography was originally published in print in 1954, but Lucky Penny Publishing acquired the eBook publishing rights in 2014 and chose it as the company’s first release under its new Silver Dollar Press division, which focuses on memoirs, autobiographies, and family histories.
As reviewer William Brown, director of the Eli Whitney Museum, wrote, “The Man Who Lives in Paradise is a complete history of the creative lives of the generations that thrived before television arrived as a thief of time and attention. Paradise is also an account of the power of playfulness, which is evident in Gilbert’s long reign as one of America’s great toy-making entrepreneurs. The love of adventure and experiment that animated Gilbert’s toys runs through every chapter of his life. Congratulations to Lucky Penny Publishing on the eBook, keeping his legacy and spirit of entrepreneurship alive.”
Melissa Marsted, the founder and publisher of Lucky Penny Publishing, also happens to be Gilbert’s great-granddaughter. “When my house burned to the ground, along with 220 other homes in the Santa Barbara Tea Fire, in November 2008,” she says, “I lost so many documents and pieces of my family’s history. Publishing my great-grandfather’s autobiography as an eBook helps me preserve his remarkable life and legacy for a whole new generation of readers. Following my great grandfather’s entrepreneurial spirit was one of the factors motivating me to start my company.”
A.C. Gilbert died in 1961, robbing Marsted of the opportunity to know her great-grandfather. Nevertheless, “he inspired his daughter, my paternal grandmother, to start her own business—the Toy Barn in Hamden, Connecticut. When I was growing up we were allowed to pick out toys from her store. My father, too, helped to develop a company as an early partner. My great-grandfather’s legacy continues.”
Another Gilbert, David T., has been pleased to see his grandfather’s story make the transition to online publishing. “A.C. would be proud of his great granddaughter’s passion for keeping the Gilbert family legacy alive for future generations,” he wrote.
Joanna Engle, executive director of the Gilbert House Children’s Museum, which carries on the Gilbert legacy through their mission of inspiring children to learn through creative play, wrote in a review: “A.C. Gilbert championed the rights of children to play because he believed play is essential to learning. This book is an in-depth look at an inspiring man whose life reflected the American spirit of ingenuity.
Bruce Watson, Gilbert’s biographer and author of The Man Who Changed How Boys and Toys Were Made: The Life and Times of A. C. Gilbert, the Man Who Saved Christmas, wrote, “A.C. Gilbert made the first Erector Sets and those sets made generations of boys. Gilbert’s autobiography, The Man Who Lives in Paradise,” tells how he made his greatest invention—himself.”
Like all Lucky Penny Publishing titles, Silver Dollar Press eBooks are currently available for immediate download from the publisher’s website: Luckypennypress.com, under the under the Silver Dollar Press link, or on iTunes. Sales from the book will benefit the A. C. Gilbert Children’s Museum of Salem, Oregon; the Eli Whitney Museum in New Haven, Connecticut; and the A. C. Gilbert Heritage Society. For more information, visit Lucky Penny Publishing at LuckyPennyPress.com.