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The Toymaker Who (Actually) Saved Christmas

Alfred Carlton Gilbert was an extraordinary man. He set a world record for chin-ups, won an Olympic gold medal in the pole vault, earned a medical degree, and invented the Erector Set. The toy company he built around it was so respected that Gilbert was elected the first president of the Toy Manufacturers of America trade group. And that's when he ran into his biggest challenge.

It was 1918, the U.S. was embroiled in World War I, and the Council had made an open issue about their deliberation over whether to halt all production of toys indefinitely, turning factories into ammunition centers and even discouraging giving or receiving gifts that holiday season. Instead of toys, they argued, citizens should be spending money on war bonds. Playthings had become inconsequential.

Frantic toymakers persuaded Gilbert, founder of the A.C. Gilbert Company and creator of the popular Erector construction sets, to speak on their behalf. Toys in hand, he faced his own personal firing squad of military generals, policy advisors, and the Secretary of War.

Gilbert managed to convince the committee not to cancel toys for Christmas, which worked out well as the war ended that November. Read what he said to convince them at mental_floss.  

(Image credit: Flickr user Travel Salem)


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