World’s Most Dangerous Toys: Gilbert U-238 Atomic Energy Lab

The most spectacular of our new educational toys was the Gilbert Atomic Energy Laboratory. This was a top job, the result of much experimentation and hard work. We were unofficially encouraged by the government, who thought that our set would aid in public understanding of atomic energy and stress its constructive side.

If you thought choking hazards in toys were bad then spare a thought for American kids in the early 50’s.

Introducing the Gilbert U-238 Atomic Energy Laboratory. This toy lab set was produced by Alfred Carlton Gilbert between 1950 and 1951 and sold for $49.50US (which is equivalent to about $380 – $400US dollars today). So if you were lucky enough to have well off parents back in the day you may well have been ‘lucky’ enough to get your hands on this radioactive fun set.

There was some incentive to fork out the $50 as the set also came with a book that explained to kids how to prospect for uranium with a $10,000 prize offered by the US Government to anyone who proved successful.

The kit contained a U-239 Geiger counter, electroscope, spinthariscope (a device for observing individual nuclear disintegrations), a Wilson cloud chamber, nuclear spheres, three batteries, a “Learn How Dagwood Split the Atom” comic book. It also contained three low-level radiation sources: Alpha particles (Pb-210 and Po-210), Beta particles (Ru-106), Gamma particles (possibly Zn-65) and four Uranium-bearing ore samples.

Due to its rarity the Atomic Energy Lab is now a highly sought after collector’s item and can fetch a price of up to 100 times it’s modern day equivalent retail price. Continue reading “World’s Most Dangerous Toys: Gilbert U-238 Atomic Energy Lab”