Roll Over Image to Zoom ‹ Back to Collection

Porter Chemcraft Chemistry Lab No. 605

  • 1950s
  • Porter Chemical Company
    Hagerstown, MD
  • 13.625 in. W x 9.5 in. L x 3 in. D
    Steel, plastic, paper, aluminum
  • Not on display
  • Gift of Dale F. Field
  • 2009.115


In the early 20th 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 toward 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 lose 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 public interest in science began to grow again. Chemistry sets today generally do not contain as many chemicals (if they contain any at all) and contain much simpler experiments.

Search Our Online Collections

Stories from the Field

Listen to career insights and stories of scientific adventures from women in chemistry.


Distillations Podcast logo
Listen to the latest episodes of CHF’s award-winning podcast.

Support CHF

Help us preserve and share the history of chemistry and related sciences. Make a tax-deductible tax-deductible gift online.