The Erector Set is a construction toy on the Toy Industry Association’s list of 100 Greatest Toys of the 20th Century. Invented in 1913 by AC Gilbert, it was redesigned in 1924 and includes metal and plastic parts, nuts, bolts, washers, screws, and basic tools. Each set includes a design guide with ideas for building, but can also be used for imaginative play.
Along with Tinkertoys®, Legos®, Lincoln Logs® and K’NEX®, the Erector Set® is a type of construction toy on the Toy Industry Association’s list of 100 Greatest Toys of the 20th Century called the “Century of Toys”. Created in 1913, the same year as Tinkertoys®, the Erector Set® was invented by AC Gilbert, an inventor who had founded Mysto Magic Co. in 1909. Observing a skyscraper under construction in 1911, Gilbert had the idea to an educational toy project that would encourage budding architects.
The Erector Set®, manufactured by the AC Gilbert Company, was available for purchase in 1913 and was the centerpiece of the first ever national advertising campaign. The ads appeared in Popular Mechanics and The Saturday Evening Post. His first name was “Mysto Erector Structural Steel Builder”.
The Erector Set® was redesigned in 1924, leading to the addition of more parts and the preparation of kits that included electric motors. Today, some of the basic metal and plastic parts include the following:
• Strips: the strips have holes for the passage of the screws, therefore they are called “perforated strips”. The strips can be flat or have bent ends, in which case they are called “double angled strips”. Each bent end has a perforation. Curved strips are also included.
• Plates: While strips have one line of holes, plates generally have at least three, with rows of perforations across the entire plate in most cases. Flat plates are rectangular with rounded corners. The “semi-circular plates” only have perforations across the diameter and on a perpendicular radius. The “flex plates” are made rectangular or triangular. The “curved plates” are arched. And the “plastic plates” are made of plastic. A “flange plate” is like a “double angled strip”.
• Brackets: A variety of brackets are included, such as “90º angle brackets”, “double angle brackets, folded similar to a “double angle strip” and “inverted angle brackets”.
• Nuts, bolts, washers and screws act as fasteners.
• An open-end wrench and an Allen key are basic tools.
Each Erector Set® includes a design guide with ideas for building. Example ideas include a racing car, a robot, an airplane, a helicopter, and a castle. This raises a point about how children can use an Erector Set®. First, an Erector Set® can be used to help children base a creation on a model, learn to use the tools in the set, and follow directions. But it can also work very differently: used without reference to directions, an Erector Set® can give children ample space for imaginative play where they simply explore the possibilities offered by the elements of the set to create an abstract or specific image, planned or improvised structure.