There are toys that every kid can understand – trucks, toy guns – and then there are the Erector sets of the world.
Some young brains were perfectly wired for Erector sets – give them enough girders, and they’ll build you a rocket to the moon. Sure, they weren’t for everybody (some kids were lucky if they could build an Erector sword), but for budding engineers, they were like the toys of the gods.
A.C. Gilbert, a toy manufacturer and Olympic gold medallist in the pole vault, unveiled his first Erector set in 1913, one-upping the contemporary Meccano building toy by allowing kids to build square girders.
With a pulley, gears and strips of metal, kids could build stable structures, and the larger sets added a DC motor (or several) to power your working models.
As the Erector set gained popularity, it also grew more elaborate. The numbered model sets could build anything from a truck to a steam shovel to a power plant to a complete amusement park (Ferris wheel, parachute drops, carousel, plane ride, all working).
For the more adventurous, virtually anything could be built with the right Erector pieces and a little ingenuity. Pistons, wheels, gears, levers – the basic building blocks of machinery were included in every Erector set, and the possibilities were endless.
For the less mechanically-minded, some pretty lethal improvised weapons could be fashioned from the components . . .