January 24, 2017 · by David Gilbert · Events, News

The 2017 National Convention took place on July 7, 8, and 9 in Huntsville, Alabama. By all accounts, it was an excellent convention and magnificent event. Kudos to convention hosts Joe and Beth Grobmyer. Stay tuned for information on the 2018 National Convention, which will be hosted by Ken Weinig in the towns of Rumney and Plymouth, New Hampshire on Friday, July 13 – Sunday, July 15. Visit our National Convention page to learn more about all our recent ACGHS National Conventions.

November 30, 2016 · by David Gilbert · Events, News
Mr. Gilbert's Railroad. Photo copyright and courtesy of the Eli Whitney Museum.

Mr. Gilbert’s Railroad. Photo copyright and courtesy of the Eli Whitney Museum.

The Whitney Workshop at the Eli Whitney Museum in New Haven, Connecticut, opens its annual Holiday Exhibition on Friday, November 24th at noon. Classic, New Haven-made American Flyer trains for all to run…and wooden trains kits to buy and build (ages 5 and up).

Where: The Whitney Workshop, 915 Whitney Avenue, Hamden, CT
When:  Opens Friday, November 24th, Noon – 5pm; Closes:  Sunday, January 14th
Hours:  Saturdays 10am – 3pm; Sundays Noon – 5pm
Closed: Christmas and New Year’s Day

The trains run on the weekends through January 14th, 2018.

Special Days:  Dec 26 – 29 Noon – 5pm

Cost: Admission Free. Donations welcome.

Learn more and see a complete schedule on EliWhitney.org.

August 7, 2017 · by David Gilbert · Amusement Park Rides, Banks, Jim, Erector Sets, Models

Jim Banks' Skydiver

Growing up in the 1960s and 1970s I rode on tons of amusement park rides, and one that I always remembered fondly was the infamous “Skydiver”. Resembling a large Ferris wheel with rotating cars, the Skydiver was a rough and intimidating ride. Ride on this thing once and you’ll probably remember the experience for the rest of your life. I’ve never seen an Erector re-creation of the Skydiver so I got the idea to try and make one, thinking it would be a good challenge. I looked at real-life pictures of the Skydiver on the Internet to refresh my memory and provide a guide for how the eventual model should look.

First I prototyped the cars, trying to make them resemble the real thing, along with a small steering wheel on the center axis that the occupants tried vainly to control the out-of-control car. I was able to get the car to rotate on a 7” axle properly. Then I prototyped the large Ferris-type wheel, laying out all the pieces on the floor until I had a good idea of how things would lay out while fitting the 4 cars.

After figuring out the cars and Ferris-type wheel, I had to construct the towers. Since the wheel is larger than the traditional 8 1/2 set wheel, I had to make it taller by connecting two 12” MN base plates. This required extra supports using more 12” DP angle girders for structural strength and rigidity. I also beefed up the tops of each tower where a single “N” long double angle supports the full weight of the Ferris wheel and cars. If that N-part comes loose, it will rotate co-axially and everything will possibly come crashing down, so I added support with 3” MO angle girders and a few other parts and lots of screws. Possibly over-engineered but definitely strong enough to support the weight!

I had a bunch of extra 12” MN base plates so I used them to create the platform. After it was all together and the Skydiver wheel worked as planned, the last thing I did was add the loading and unloading platforms for all the brave souls that wanted to give this ride a try. I felt it adds to the overall effect.

The Skydiver was a colorful, visually pleasing ride, so I painted the MF base plates on the sides of each car blue to give it some color. I also used the red car trucks on the loading ramps, plus the red flat car trucks on the points of the Ferris wheel to add color.

I have to say I’m happy with how the project turned out. The action of the cars — rotating on axis as they moved in a Ferris wheel-type circular movement — mimics exactly how the cars of the Skydiver moved in real life.

View a video of Jim Banks' Skydiver Ferris Wheel
May 1, 2017 · by David Gilbert · Appliances, News

Guy Lanza recently sent us a photograph of a combination record player and television set which he saw in a museum in Tyumen, Siberia. We’re sharing Guy’s photographs below. According to the label, the appliance was manufactured by the A.C. Gilbert Company of New Haven, Connecticut. Our thanks to Guy for sharing this.

1925 Phonograph

1925 Phonograph

Label for 1925 Phonograph

Label for 1925 Phonograph

December 23, 2015 · by David Gilbert · News
The Man Who Lives in Paradise

The Man Who Lives in Paradise

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.

September 25, 2014 · by Michael Foster · Erector Sets

This isn’t news to collectors, but one of A.C. Gilbert’s abilities was creating promotions and advertising. This page has been created to display and make available for download some of his print ads, large and small. Many of these ads make great reference material and often give a lesson in history. If you have an ad or article you would like to share, please send a PDF file to the webmaster. See the new Erector Marketing page

October 6, 2016 · by David Gilbert · News

Tony Brown of the UK just died today far too young of a brain aneurysm. Tony was born in Soham on April 14th 1963, and attended Warwick University in Coventry, having graduated in 1984.

He had an extensive collection of early Meccano sets as well as 20’s era brown box Gilbert. He also had a very rare 80% stocked Meccano’s dealer’s extra parts cabinet with many rare Short lived parts, it caused quite the stir in England as many of those parts just could not be found. Naturally he set about rounding it out to be 100% stocked, that dealers cabinet was his pride and joy. He was very fond of feeding the wildlife in his back yard and was a lifelong Shakespeare fan.

He was also quite fond of all things steam powered traction engines and locomotives in particular. He was quite excited when I told him about the west coast restoration project for the Union Pacific “big boy” 4-8-8-4 locomotive and we both followed that project closely. I remember him speculating how many Hudson sets would be required to make one like it.

Tony Brown

Tony Brown

He was not at all into Football (soccer) even though I was, his hometown team Cambridge United had just won the FA trophy and been promoted back into the professional league a few years ago but Shakespeare was his main passion outside of metal construction toys. Every time I tried to talk about football he adeptly changed the subject.

When I first met Tony I had only been into type III 70’s era Gilbert, he introduced me to Joel Perlin and the joys of the 1927 #8 Trumodel set in particular and the brown box sets in general. He had followed me into the #12 1/2 50’s era Robot sets and had he bought Joel’s last one that I needed to complete an inside straight of five consecutive years, my 12 1/2 collection will now be a four-flush as Joel so aptly put it. When we had first met he was very proud of a Hudson locomotive set he found in Cambridge that was missing many parts, I remember selling him on joining our group so he could have access to the graphics and manuals. He really wanted to build that locomotive, Joel helped him part it out and naturally he then wanted the tended. Just before he passed away he had started on parting out a Zeppelin set.

He really did like his extensive collection of early Marklin and Meccano sets being quite the expert in the subtle colour variations. He had a lot of them and was proud of their completeness with proper period parts, he was especially fond of the high end early larger Marklin & Meccano sets having built on his father’s collection adding the larger sets from other years I remember him being quite proud of a batch of early American Mecano painted metal pieces he found in England which had distinctly different shadings. He was a regular contributor to the New Zealand Meccano group and there are many albums of his rather large models there. He remarked to me once that with Meccano the models were so large that they needed their own room so he had to take them apart after their builders shows over there in the UK, he seemed to always be getting ready to go to one.

He passed away yesterday, we had received news of it shortly afterwards and it was like a punch to the gut. My thoughts go to his widow Marie and all of the many outstanding sets and parts she is now faced with. They had no children but he did have a niece Kayliegh  His favorite dog Timmy had just died a few weeks before he did which gives me pause to consider just how fragile life is, perhaps there is something to be said for living for the moment as the here and now will never come again ?

– Greg Guidarelli, Sylmar California

July 14, 2016 · by David Gilbert · News
Ray Rosebush (left) with Ken Weinig at the July 12, 2014 A.C. Gilbert Heritage Society Convention in Atlanta.

Ray Rosebush (left) with Ken Weinig at the July 12, 2014 A.C. Gilbert Heritage Society Convention in Atlanta.

It is with great sadness that we report the passing of Ray Rosebush, a charter member of  the A.C. Gilbert Heritage Society and a great friend and colleague to all of us. Ray possessed one of the Society’s most extensive collections of Erector Sets as well at a magnificent toy collection. He was a steadfast supporter of the legacy of A.C. Gilbert, and one of the nicest persons I have ever met. Read Ray’s obituary here.

« Older Entries