1 April 2022 — 12:00 noon — online

Fred Nadis

“Science in Toyland: The Rise and Fall of the Erector Set”

In 1913, A. C. Gilbert’s Mysto Manufacturing Company of New Haven, Connecticut produced its first Mysto Erector set to amuse children and teach them engineering basics. The sets were marketed solely to boys. For decades, A .C. Gilbert advertisements led with ‘Hello Boys!’ In this same period, Porter Chemical began distributing chemistry sets for children, marking the 1910s as ground zero for mass produced children’s science toys. This talk will explore the competitive marketing campaigns for these science toys, their gendered nature, and their connection to narratives of national strength and progress and to the current boom in STEM education.


Fred Nadis is based in California and is a staff writer at Letterjoy, a historical publishing company. He received his Ph.D. in American Studies from the University of Texas at Austin in 2002. He has been awarded fellowships from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and the Science History Institute. His most recent book is Star Settlers: The Billionaires, Geniuses, and Crazed Visionaries out to Conquer the Universe (Pegasus, 2020).


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