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The Anatomy of a 1950s “Atomic Energy Lab” for Kids

The U-238 Atomic Energy Lab from A.C. Gilbert was released in 1950 and was marketed like many of the new-fangled science toys and chemistry sets. But, this was no chemistry set (not that those toy were particularly safe either). No, this set came with a Geiger counter and 7 radioactive samples to measure in detail from every angle. It has has been noted in the years since that the low levels of these samples was not enough to seriously injure a child. But, A.C. Gilbert was not the only producer of this type of toy. The Chemcraft labs offered radioactive materials in their children’s kits as early as 1947.

All this begs the question: why expose children to radiation if you don’t have to? The answer is simple: at the time experts didn’t believe that radiation was all that bad for you, in measured doses. Just think of all the tourists lined up in seats outside Vegas to watch atomic bombs being tested up close and personal.

The A.C. Gilbert kits (and comparable ones) cost an enormous amount at the time – the equivalent of a week’s wages for most families. For this reason alone the kits did not sell well.

Find out exactly what was in these A.C. Gilbert sets, which some people call the most dangerous toy in the world, in the video below.


9 of the most dangerous vintage toys: Click “Next Page” below!

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