Vintage Science Kits – Only for Well Dressed Boys

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Four things immediately struck me as I researched toy science kit packaging and advertising from the first half of the 20th century. First, there were no girls. Second, and obviously, there were only boys. Third you had to be a well dressed boy. Fourth, a well dressed boy could maim or kill himself using them. Apparently, boys, science, danger and a nice tie went together.

That is one well dressed boy on what I think is a great looking box from The Porter Chemical Company. The company was founded in 1916 and went out of business in the 1980's; not a bad run. I was not familiar with the company but was surprised to learn that they were the largest purveyor of test tubes in the world.  


If you wanted to blow yourself up, you needed to wear a tie and purchase this chemistry set from the AC Gilbert Company. The kit contained ammonium nitrate which when mixed with other chemicals makes a bomb.


The AC Gilbert Company was obviously doing its part in trying to wipe out the well-dressed boy population. The boys in the above box cover are wearing ties, blowing glass and contemplating an even greater use of fire. I hope they knew not to inhale.


Talk about well dressed, the young man in the ad above for Kaster Kits (see top right) is wearing a bow tie. Kaster Kits involved pouring molten lead which sounds incredibly dangerous. For that reason, I believe it is possible that the very pale and ghostly boy on the left of the box ( who has on a tie and is sporting a very bad haircut) may, in fact, be dead. 

Those were more dangerous and well dressed times. I like today better.

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