A. C. Gilbert

A. C. Gilbert (1884-1961) is known today primarily as an inventor. However in his youth he was an outstanding athlete. He excelled at gymnastics, wrestling, boxing, track and field and football. In the 1912 Olympics he tied for first place in the pole vault. He obtained a medical degre from Yale University in 1909. But he never practiced medicine and his intention was to become an athletic director. He had earned money while a student by learning magic tricks. He and a partner started the Mysto Manufacturing Company which initially produced kits for magicians. While Gilbert was visiting New York City he became fascinated by the construction of power lines for the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad. Watching crews assemble girders to support trolley lines gave him the idea for the invention of the Erector Set. The toy was manufactured in New Haven and became a huge hit. One of the children who played with the Erector Set was Donald Bailey in the United Kingdom. He later became a member of the Royal Engineers and made a working model of a portable bridge with his Erector Set. This became the basis for the Bailey Bridge which General Eisenhower cited as one of the key technological advances of World War Two along with heavy bombers and radar.

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