Science at Play: A History of Chemistry Sets

Chemistry sets and other home-based science labs made especially for children first appeared in the early 20th century. The growth of these influential toys is documented in an online exhibition called Science at Play: A History of Chemistry Sets. Offered by the Science History Institute in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the exhibit draws from the organization’s collection of more than 150 chemistry sets from around the world.

The museum’s mandate to “preserve and promote understanding of the history of science” is evident in this exhibition. Historical context is provided throughout its eight online chapters, including Introduction, From Lab to Home, Magic and Mastery, Fantastic Journeys, Exciting! Safe!, For Boys – and Girls?, Experimenter Today – Scientists Tomorrow, and Selling Science.

Each chapter includes high-quality photos from major toy vendors of the day, including Skil Craft, Porter ChemCraft, and the A.C. Gilbert Company, along with descriptive text. Several chapters also include videos and help demonstrate how consumer acceptance, marketing, and safety regulation of the sets evolved.

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