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A.C. Gilbert and the Great War

One may wonder what A.C. Gilbert has to do with the Great War, but it turns out that this man was involved in a number of areas during 1917-1919.

Gilbert’s story starts with his birth in Salem, Oregon in 1884. He excelled in high school and college athletic events, and in the 1908 Olympics in London, he was awarded the gold medal for his record-setting pole vault of 12’3″. During college at Pacific University and later at Yale, he learned the practice of magic tricks and found this to be more interesting and practical than his medical studies at Yale University. He did complete his medical training at Yale, but went into a partnership with the Mysto Manufacturing Company. While at Mysto, he patented the erector set, which was outside of the realm of what Mysto produced. In 1916, he started the A.C. Gilbert company, where he manufactured his patented erector set and other educational toys.

When the US entered the Great War in 1917, he and other toy manufacturers were asked to convert all of the toy factories in the area to make weapons and munitions to help the war effort. During this time, he was an active member of the “4 Minute Men” during the war and until 1919.

After the Armistice was signed on November 11, 1918, all toy manufacturers were asked to continue making military materials so that toys purchased at Christmas would not interfere with Victory Loan drives. Gilbert was selected to go to Washington to make the case for the manufacture of toys and was quite successful at this. Thus, he became known as “The Man Who Saved Christmas” in 1918.

Read the entire biography in the ‘Articles‘ section of the site.


Arts of the Great War Collection