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A.C. Gilbert Wheel Toy and Ride-On Toy Sets

From an ad in the 1919 Sears Catalog
(see image below text):

The Only Construction Toy That Builds Practical Outdoor Toys

For the Boy 8 to 16 Years of Age
Boys, Make Your Own Hand Cars, Wagons, and Many Other Similar Articles

Called Gilbert's New Toy because it has not as yet been actually named. With the material in the flat wooden boxes shown on this page you can make such articles as you see illustrated. These represent only a few possibilities. Boys, think of making a wheelbarrow, a truck, a sled, a hand truck, a real hand car with cog wheels, or an endless number of other things. The limit of the possibilities of construction with these outfits is not known.

The beauty of it all is that what you make is not a toy model, but one just as strong as you would buy in a store as a regulation article. All you need is one of these sets and a screwdriver and wrench. The outfits contain everything else, such as painted steel plates, angle irons, gears, ales, nuts, bolts, bars and boards of tough hardwood, nicely finished, and four strong round edge steel wheels. When you get tired of a wagon, take it apart and build a wheelbarrow or a hand car. You can make a sled for Wintertime also. This toy is made up in two sets, one with gears and pinions to make a real hand car, which we sell for $8.98, and a smaller set with fewer pieces and which has no gears or pinions, and consequently will not build a hand car with gears.

Hi folks, Doc here. As you readers know, the A.C. Gilbert Company was justifiably famous for the Erector Set, in all its forms. However, what some of you may not know is that the Gilbert Co. also produced a wide variety of other toy products through the years. These included chemistry sets (e.g., Gilbert Chemistry Experiment Lab), science kits (e.g., the Gilbert Atomic Energy Lab, etc.), tool sets (e.g., the Gilbert "Big Boy" Tool Chest), magic sets (e.g., Gilbert Mysto Magic, etc.), wooden building block sets (e.g., Briktor, Gilbert Anchor Blocks, etc.), molten lead casting sets (e.g., Gilbert Kaster Kits), and others. One of those others was marketed as the Wheel Toy, a descriptive but obvious name given the nature of the toy. It was yet another building set, but this was used to build "full size" outdoor wheeled play toys, something completely different for Gilbert.

Figure 1. The larger of the two Wheel Toy sets

As the original 1919 ad copy shown in the inset at right states, the Wheel Toy was marketed in two different sets: one containing all pieces plus gears ($8.98, shown above), and one with fewer pieces and no gears ($5.47). Various items could be built, including a wagon, wheelbarrow, truck, sled, hand truck, real hand car, and more. Sets were sold for only a few years, 1919-1922.

Figure 2. The contents of the large set shown above

As the ad copy also states, the sets contained all parts and hardware necessary to build their corresponding toys, plus others (however, oddly enough, tools were NOT included). For some toys, the wooden box a set was packed in was used as a component of those particular toys, the wagon for instance. Clever! My thanks to longtime contributor Bruce Hansen for the use of the Wheel Toy photos shown on this page. You can see more of his Wheel Toy pics HERE.

Figure 3. A few of the toys built with the large Wheel Toy set

After the demise of the Wheel Toy sets, A.C. Gilbert never made another foray into large, outdoor play toys. After his death in 1961, the company entered its final stage first under the leadership of his son Al and later others. During this final stage (the company was finally sold to Gabriel Industries in 1967), the product shown in the photos below was produced. It was clearly designed to build ride-on toys for small children, the first such product since the original Wheel Toy.

The kit includes four black rubber tires with "Gilbert Tuff-Tread" in raised lettering and yellow plastic wheels. Some of the flat and angle pieces are made from aluminum; the longest (13 ¼") angles are steel. All threaded fasteners are polypropylene. Both a three and four wheeled vehicle could be built. A steering wheel and fake headlight parts were also included. According to the shipping label on the box that this particular unit came in, the kit was sold at Firestone Tire stores (among other places?). If you can supply more details, photos, or other information on this kit, please email me. My thanks to Robert Rogers for these photos and information.