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Classic Period No. 10 Erector Sets

Hi folks, Doc here. This time we'll look at the what can arguably be called the greatest of all A.C. Gilbert Erector sets: the Classic Period No. 10 set. It was the largest (and heaviest) Erector set ever, through all of its various permutations.

The history of the No. 10 Erector set actually pre-dates the Classic Period. The first Erector set to bear the number 10 appeared in 1920, during the so-called Type I period. It was a much smaller set, and bore no resemblance to its more famous later counterparts. This first version of the No. 10 set was housed in a naturally finished wooden box that measured 20" x 12" x 3½"; it weighed in at about 30 pounds. The majority of its over 1250 parts were arranged in the bottom of the box and on a removable wooden tray, the remainder being attached to a cardboard insert inside of the lid. With the exception of changes to the set's electric motor midway through its four-year run, the Type I No. 10 set remained virtually unchanged until the advent of the Classic Period in 1924.

The world of Erector changed dramatically in 1924 when A.C. Gilbert completely revamped his entire product line, including, perhaps most significantly, the design of the parts themselves (see the images below). This second distinct period of Erector history, which lasted through 1932, was later termed the Classic Period due to the often spectacular nature of the sets produced during these years.

Selected Type I Period Parts
  Their Later Period Counterparts
The images above illustrate some of the changes Gilbert made to certain key Erector set parts over the years. The original Style I Period parts are shown in the lefthand image; their later period replacement parts are shown in the corresponding location in the righthand image. In all cases, matching part pairs are shown in relative scale to one another; note that in many cases, the later Period parts are smaller than their Style I counterparts. In addition, later Period sets also featured a greater variety of different part types than Style I sets.

The No. 10 set for 1924 was a new and improved version of its 1923 predecessor. It came packed in a special, uniquely shaped wooden chest with a hinged lid, a supply of which Gilbert had obtained from the U.S. Army some years before for use with another one of his products. The chest measured 22¼" x 12" x 7"; fully packed, the set weighed over 50 pounds. Unique to this set (and to the 1925 set, which was identical to the 1924 version) was the mixture of both old and new girders; as discussed previously, Gilbert had completely redsigned the girders this year.

The evolution of the No. 10 set continued in 1926 with the advent of the largest version yet. This newest version required an all-new nine-drawer wooden chest to hold its over 2500 parts; the final product weighed in at nearly 70 pounds (see photo below). The set contained the newly invented White Truck parts (see my feature on the White Truck here), along with a selection of special parts that appeared only in this particular set. As a result, these special parts are extremely rare today.

1926 No. 10 Set

In 1927, a new White Truck part, the truck body (BG), was introduced. To accomodate this new part, the No. 10 set's nine-drawer chest was made slightly larger. As before, the set also included the other White Truck parts, including the redesigned DM wheels and rubber tires which replaced the earlier spoked versions, which are among the most sought after of all Erector parts today. In addition, the set included the newly acquired Trumodel derrick parts, as well as the new wide beam girders.

In 1928, the No. 10 set (shown in the photo below) made its final appearance in a nine-drawer chest, the same one used in 1927. Some parts were removed from the set's inventory, including the now famous three-drum hoist, while other new parts were added. These included the new big channel girders - redesigned versions of the the previous year's beam girders - which were featured so prominently in the new No. B Ferris Wheel Accessory set (see my feature here).

1928 No. 10 Set

The next chapter of the Classic Period No. 10 set commenced in 1929, when its wooden chest was replaced by a new, partitioned wooden case that matched the red and black painted wood boxes used for the other large sets. Included in its inventory were all of the same special parts from the previous year's set - clam shell bucket, shell bucket, electrical parts, etc. - plus parts for two new Classic Period models: the Mechanical Wonder and the Zeppelin (see my features on the latter here and here). The No. 10 set did not change for 1931.

The final iteration of the Classic Period No. 10 set was the 1931-32 version, shown in the photo below. This was certainly the ultimate A.C. Gilbert Erector set produced to date, both in size and in content. Measuring 31" x 27¼" x 7½" and weighing in at a back breaking 150 pounds, the set that Gilbert himself termed "The Climax of Erector Glory" contained all of the the parts needed to build every special Classic Period model but one (the Erector airplane), including the new Hudson locomotive and tender models. These parts, plus all of the others, were arranged in three removable wooden boxes and two removable metal trays inside of the outer wooden case. Included were two large manuals with instructions for building over 500 different models.

1932 No. 10 Set

Photos from the former John Drury collection; used with permission.