Chemistry Experiment Lab from Gilbert Toys (1960)

vCompany: Gilbert Toys | Release date: 1960 | Where to purchase: eBay

Magic tricks, secret writing, invisible ink, food testing, and making blueprints were some of the activities available in the Chemistry Experiment Lab from Gilbert Toys. Released in 1960, the set (no. 12039) was one of several offered by the company that were designed to teach basic chemistry skills. The line was part of Gilbert Toys’ continued foray into educational toys for aspiring scientists.

The Experiment Lab consisted of 10 bottled chemicals: Borax, Calcium Chloride, Calcium Oxide, Cobalt Chloride, Sodium Carbonate, Phenolphthalein, Ferric Ammonium Sulphate, Sodium Ferrocyanide, Sulphur, and Tannic Acid. The rectangle-shaped bottles were stored in the set label-side-out, allowing for easy reference and access during experiments. Each label included the name of the chemical inside and its corresponding molecular formula.

Additional set contents included red and blue litmus paper, test tubes, a pipette, test tube holder, spoon, and filter paper. An integrated test tube rack kept everything in one place. Gilbert Toys included a Fun with Chemistry manual that guided experiments and encouraged exploration.

The Chemistry Experiment Lab shipped in an aluminum case painted in bright colours and featuring images of boys performing scientific experiments, a reflection of how chemistry sets, in general, were marketed at the time.

To attract children to potential careers in chemistry, Gilbert Toys advertised the sets in various publications aimed at children, including magazines and comic books. In addition to the manual, the company also included Science Leads the Way!, a mini-comic book, inside the cover of the set.

Gilbert Toys sold millions of Chemistry sets over nearly four decades, making surviving sets relatively easy to find on the resale market. Complete sets with minimal signs of use are more rare and command higher prices.

Note: If you buy something using the eBay link in this story, we may earn a small commission.