October 7, 2005 - January 29, 2006

Welcome to the wonderful world of A.C. Gilbert, the Erector set, and other "Construction Toys in Motion." This exhibit takes you on a tour through the land of the construction as seen through the eye of the toy builder as you learn all about these exciting objects and their creator. Our exhibit includes various "toys" representing the many facets of transportation throughout the 20th century, everything from dump trucks and buses to riverboats and airships. As you shall see, the scope of the Erector and Meccano construction toy sets extended as far as the Ferris Wheel and a miniature "Rocket Jets Ride." Not only that, but A.C. Gilbert's "Wheel Toy" set could build a variety of wagons and sleds large enough for, and made to be used by, children.

The inventor of these miraculous "Erector" construction sets was Alfred Carlton (A.C.) Gilbert. Introducing them to the public in the early twentieth century, Gilbert catered to immense public interest in construction and engineering works of the time. Although the British line of Meccano construction sets already existed at the time Gilbert introduced his set, "Erector" kits became much more accessible because of changes in structure of the separate component parts. In so doing, Gilbert opened up the exciting, cutting-edge world of transport and construction to enterprising youngsters poised to become the next generation of engineers.

But, let us not forget, these are toys -- and toys are meant to be played with, right? In keeping with the true spirit of the toys displayed in this exhibit, visitors were invited to "play" and push the buttons that set into motion several of the models shown. You can click the links in the table below to "play" with the construction toys of our exhibit.

Enjoy the many models and construction toy sets on display here. Not only are they beautifully designed, but they are an outstanding reflection of the life and spirit of the times. Notice both their classic elements, which continue to be used in the construction of today, and those particulars that make them unique time pieces. Reflect on the wide array of transportation models presented and the engineering methods used to create them. Browse the virtual galleries and examine the intricacies of every model. As you do so, feel the excitement generated by the engineering marvels these models represent. Imagine what it must have been like, in 1913, to open a new Erector set and take construction into your own hands.

"Construction toys in motion" both inspire and educate. It is no wonder they were met with such unbridled enthusiasm upon their introduction to the public. These are indeed marvels unto themselves!

Construction toys mirror society

A. C. Gilbert, Father of the Erector Set

In the Side Gallery

In the Rear Gallery

Gilbert Erector Air Kraft Set

Gilbert Erector Airship

Gilbert Erector Ferris Wheel

Gilbert Erector "Hudson" Locomotive

Gilbert Erector Rocket Jet Ride

Gilbert Erector White Trucks

Gilbert Meccano Ocean Liner

Gilbert Wheel Toy

Marklin Paddlewheel Riverboat

Meccano Aero Constructor Outfit

Meccano Auto Constructor Outfit

Metalcraft Spirit of St. Louis

Stanlo Metal Construction Set

The Mount Washington Cog Railway


Books and Publications

Web references

Building Excitement: A Century of Construction Toys Earlier MOAH exhibit on construction toys, including a general history.

Girders and Gears  Resource site for metal construction toy systems

Credits and Acknowledgements

The Museum of American Heritage thanks the following for their contributions to Construction Toys in Motion:

Bob Boschert
Beth Bunnenberg
Clyde Easterly
Paul Jennings
Art Notthoff
Charles and Kim Pack
Bill Wehrend

The Museum also thanks its sponsors for 2005:

The Moore Family Foundation
See's Candies
The Frank Livermore Trust

Back To Top This page last updated: April 15, 2007
Original content: Copyright © 2000 - 2007 Museum of American Heritage
Trademarks are the property of their owners