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Tree of Knowledge Chem-Science Chemistry Set

  • Manufactured by Tree of Knowledge, distributed by Elenco Electronics, Inc.
  • 2.625 in. H x 15.5 in. W x 9 in. D
    Plastic, cardboard, paper, stainless steel, san , baking powder, iron, rubber
  • On display in Making Modernity
  • Purchased for Collections
  • 2006.127


Later sets like this one feature plastic labware instead of glass and do not contain chemicals. Users are expected to acquire their own, as new regulations forbid the transport of potentially harmful chemicals or those known to be used in the making of drugs or explosives.

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.

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