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Gilbert Chemistry Set

  • ca. 1920
  • Manufactured by A. C. Gilbert Company
  • 5.5 in. H x 10.75 in. W x 22.75 in. L
    Wood, glass, chemicals
  • Not on display
  • Gift of Dr. Herbert T. Pratt
  • Pratt Collection
  • 2008.047.193


In the early twentieth century, companies like the Porter Chemical Company and A.C. Gilbert began to manufacture and sell chemistry laboratories and kits. Originally marketed as educational toys for young boys; these sets quickly became known as the perfect birthday or Christmas gift as they promised magic for the user and served as a first step towards a future career in science for many. By the mid-1950s—the height of chemistry sets’ popularity—there were numerous companies providing sets and there was hardly a child in the United States who did not own or want one.

Chemistry sets began to loose popularity in the 1960s when concerns over safety began to rise and a general feeling of distrust of anything chemical began to emerge in society. Eventually chemistry sets disappeared from shelves only to reemerge in the late 1980s as the public interest in science began to grow again. Chemistry sets today, in general, do not contain as many chemicals (if they contain any at all) and contain much simpler experiments.

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