A. C. Gilbert Company

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The A. C. Gilbert Company was an American toy company, once one of the largest toy companies in the world. It is best known for introducing the Erector Set (a construction toy similar to Meccano in the rest of the world) to the marketplace.

Gilbert was founded in 1909 in Westville, Connecticut, originally as a company providing supplies for magic (Alfred Carlton Gilbert was a magician). Gilbert invented Erector in 1911, inspired by railroad girders, and the construction toy was introduced two years later. By 1935, Gilbert was also producing microscopes.

In 1938, Gilbert purchased American Flyer, a struggling manufacturer of toy trains. Gilbert re-designed the entire product line, producing 1:64 scale trains running on O gauge track. Although these are sometimes referred to as S scale or S gauge trains, they are technically O27. At the same time, Gilbert introduced a line of HO scale trains, which were primarily marketed under the brand name Gilbert HO.

By 1942, Gilbert was producing equipment for military aircraft for use in World War II.

Gilbert introduced S gauge model railroads in 1946, mostly in response to the shortcomings of O scale utilized by Lionel and Marx. These newer American Flyer trains were smaller and proportioned more realistically than either the pre-war American Flyer trains or its post-war competition. Although these new trains were popular, Lionel outsold American Flyer nearly 2 to 1.

Other products followed; chemistry sets in various sizes as well as similar sets for the budding scientist, including investigations into radioactivity.

Gilbert struggled somewhat after the death of its founder in 1961. Gilbert's family sold out its shares, and the company was never profitable under its new ownership. By 1967, Gilbert was out of business . Erector was sold to Gabriel Industries and moved production from Erector Square to Lancaster, PA. American Flyer was sold to Lionel.

Although A. C. Gilbert has not existed as a company for several decades, Gabriel continued to use the brand name on its Erector set and microscope products, a practice that subsequent owners of the Erector brand have continued. Current Erector toys have the words "The construction toy from A. C. Gilbert" on their packaging. Lionel also uses the brand name on its American Flyer products, along with the old Gilbert catchphrase, "Developed at the Gilbert Hall of Science," on its product packaging.

A collection of Gilbert trains, Erector sets and objects built from them, chemistry sets, etc. is displayed in the Eli Whitney Museum in Hamden, Connecticut.

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