Science in a Can: Remembering the Remco Science Kits

Remco (a portmanteau of “remote” and “control”) has remained a favourite brand among collectors. A vast catalog of remote-controlled vehicles and licensed toys from the 1960s―including pop-culture favorites like Star Trek, Lost in Space, the Beatles, and the Munsters―set Remco collectibles apart.

In 1961, the company deviated from its standard offerings and released a line of budget-priced science kits. For about $1.00 per kit, children could learn basic science concepts in a playful way. These included Electromagnetism, Mechanical Physics, Automotive Physics, Jet Propulsion, Optical Illusions, Electro Chemistry, Jet Propulsion, Electric Motor, Chemistry, Light & Optical Science, and Printed Circuitry.

Each kit contained one repeatable experiment packaged in a canister that measured 6-¼-inches tall by 3-¾-inches across. In a quirky advertising move, the initial Science Kits featured a black-and-white photo of the same child across all the canisters. He wore a different outfit on each kit and was shown conducting one of the experiments inside. My personal favourite is the Electromagnetism canister, on which the child sports a fashion-forward bow tie.

The sets strove to help children grasp scientific concepts through repeated experimentation—a fundamental element of productive play. For example, the Printed Circuitry set let kids make a working telegraph set, while the Electro Chemistry set demonstrated the concepts of electro-plating.

All kits except for Mechanical Physics required the use of one “D” battery. Remco sold the kits individually, as well as in two, four, and eight packs.

Todd Coopee is Editor-in-Chief of Toy Tales, an online publication that covers toys and games past and present.

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