American Flyer Displays & History

Factory Photos  Factory Photos

Gilbert Factory Aerial View

Between Its founding in 1909 and its demise in 1967, A.C. Gilbert's companies occupied a variety of locations. The Mysto Manufacturing Company, founded by A.C. Gilbert and John Petrie, constructed its first factory building at 159 Valley St. in Westville, CT, which is now part of New Haven. The factory was constructed next to John Petrie's family home. The Valley Street facility is shown in the inset oval in the illustration at the left. 159 Valley Street is a private residence today.

During the first three years of its existence, the company experienced considerable growth and leased factory facilities on Foote Street in New Haven with an option to buy. That facility was previously occupied by the Kirchoff Carriage works. Advertising of the time show the address as 53, 55, 77, and even 400 Foote Street. Gilbert moved production there in 1912, just as he started production of the Erector product line. The idea for Erector had been inspired by Gilbert's study of the girder posts and overhead structures being installed along the New Haven Railroad between New Haven and New York for purposes of electrification of the line. Production of the new Erector product began at the Foote Street plant which was sufficient until February 1, 1915, at which time a fire destroyed Building 3 at that facility.

119 Fox Street todayAt that time, Gilbert purchased land at 119 Fox Street in New Haven and constructed a two story factory building at that location which was completed in May of 1915. That facility is pictured in the illustration at the top of the page and is still standing today as can be seen in the Google Stree View photo at the left. It was in that plant that Gilbert began his diversification into products other than toys in an effort to provide year round sales. Toys sales were generally concentrated around Christmas time and could not be counted on for income during the rest of the year. He determined that small appliances could support year round sales and so the Polar Cub line of fans and other appliances was born.

 

Aerial View of Erector Square1916 was a year of change for Gilbert.  A.C. Gilbert determined that the name of the company, Mysto Manufacturing no longer fit and its name was changed to the A.C. Gilbert Company in June of that year.  In addition more production space was required so Gilbert purchased the former Maxim Munitions Factory at 319 Peck Street in New Haven and Erector Square was born.  The facilities on Foote Street were sold at that time, as Gilbert had apparently exercised his option to purchase them.  The Fox Street plant was sold in 1917 and was used by its new owner to make "Liberty Motors" for the war effort.  In the photo at the left, the Fox Street facility is the large dark building near the upper right.  The Erector Square factory complex, with additional construction on the premises at various times in the ensuing years, served the company well until it went out of business in 1967. 

The chronology above was prepared by reference to comments by A.C. Gilbert in his Autobiography, "The Man Who Lives In Paradise."   Exact addresses were confirmed by online research.

Come and take a tour of the A.C. Gilbert factory, starting with some shots from the earliest days. Don't be surprised if these photos show a lot of gas powered equipment as many were taken by the Natural Gas Association, possibly for promotional use by them. Click on the link below to see a slide show.

Factory Photos

 Learn more about the Ray Mohrlang Collection