The United States had just entered World War One and to save on raw materials, manpower and industry the government considered banning production of toys. In response, a man by the name of Alfred Gilbert went to the White House to meet with the Secretaries of War, Commerce and the Interior. He brought with him a number of men carrying big packages filled with toys. It wasn’t long before the members of President Woodrow Wilson’s cabinet were on the floor playing with all kinds of toys that Gilbert had invented including an Erector Set.

Gilbert also had some words for the Secretaries, telling them that toys helped children build “solid American character”. After a few hours of playing and talking they decided against a ban on toys and newspapers then labeled Gilbert “the man who saved Christmas.” It was the subject of a made for TV movie about 10 years ago.

Gilbert earned the money to attend Yale University by working as a magician. And he was also a talented athlete. He broke the world record for consecutive chin-ups and won a gold medal in pole vaulting at the 1908 Olympics in London.

He earned a degree in sports medicine but chose manufacturing as a career instead – producing and selling the products he invented starting off with magic kits, toys and the Erector set he invented in 1913. The idea came while watching construction workers assembling girders and crossbeams while putting up skyscrapers.

Gilbert’s Erector sets with its metal beams, nuts, bolts and screws came in several sizes, some that included pulleys, gears and electric motors that let children build things using the instruction book or whatever their imagination allowed.xxxxxxxxxxxxxx

The Erector set was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame in Rochester in 1998.