Billed as "The Greatest Construction Toy in the World," the Erector set allowed kids to build models that really worked [source: The People History]. It was invented in 1913 by a doctor named Alfred Carlton Gilbert, who envisioned it as a toy that would teach children how buildings are made and how motors work [source: Erector]. The sets came with electric motors and hundreds of parts, including girders, gears and wheels, which could be combined to construct structures like drilling rigs, elevator lifts, Ferris wheels, helicopters, and bridges that promised to hold up to 200 pounds (90 kilograms) [source: Erector].
Erector sets were originally marketed solely and unapologetically to boys, with ads featuring fathers and sons admiring towering structures with girders that "resemble structural steel." The A.C. Gilbert Company was sold after Alfred's death in 1961, but erector sets remain popular all over the world, with kits for creating buildings, planes and vehicles, including working remote-control race cars [source: Erector]. Today, erector set enthusiasts of all ages take part in erector set competitions and share their "builds" in online communities.