- Summer 2013
- School Programs
- Plan a Visit
- Walk In Programs
- Birthday Parties
- Special Requests
- Archived Projects and Programs
- Archived Designs
- Join Our Email List
Alfred Gilbert arrived at Yale in 1903 by rail. The Northern Pacific, The New York Central, and The New Haven railroads had carried him from Salem, Oregon to New Haven in a mere 96 hours.
A. C. Gilbert spent his life embracing and encouraging change. It’s not surprising that at age 62 he defined America by the technology that was about to be supplanted by newer technologies. Rail had made his fame. The newer automobile and television would soon conspire to disassemble his empire. His magic persists. Forty and fifty year old American Flyer trains still run from coal mine to city at the Eli Whitney Museum. They still transport the imagination.
The Passenger Car
Alfred Gilbert arrived at Yale in 1903 by rail. The Northern Pacific, The New York Central, and The New Haven railroads had carried him from Salem, Oregon to New Haven in a mere 96 hours. America was moving and railroads drew its map. By the time he brought American Flyer to market in 1946, the airport and highway had begun to reshape American geography.
The Coal Car
Gilbert pressed his Erector Square Factory complex against a rail siding in Fair Haven. Coal fired his factory and New Haven’s growth.
The Box Car
Rail united the states in commerce. Gilbert’s sold his products to the nation. And some of his products...his motorized orange juicer, for example, followed the delivery of other new products: Florida’s oranges.
The Circus Car
Before, television, before radio, rail was the entertainment network: it brought the circus. So smitten was the young Al Gilbert that he tried to join the circus at age 9. He remained a passionate showman throughout his life.
The Radio Car
Gilbert invented a new kind of showmanship. Briefly in the early 20’s he outfitted a garish mobile showroom linked to Erector Square by radio. His blend of entertainment and sales introduced America to broadcast advertising.