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The Aeroscope

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This post combines two of my previously thought to be unrelated interests... the 1915 Pan Pacific International Exposition... and Erector Sets.

One of the greatest attractions in the amusement area known as The Zone at the San Francisco PPIE was The Aeroscope, a giant steel contraption that hoisted fairgoers 200 feet in the air for a breathtaking view of the World's Fair and the entire City by the Bay. It was created by Joseph Strauss-- who later rose to much greater heights as the Chief Engineer of the immortal Golden Gate Bridge.

aeroscope.jpg

An Erector Set is a "thinking kid's toy" that was invented in 1911 by A.C. Gilbert in New Haven, Connecticut. It's basically a box filled with a collection of small metal beams with holes for screws, nuts, bolts, and various mechanical parts including gears, pulleys, and electric motors. I found one in a babysitter's closet when I was a kid and quickly fell in love.

erector-set_0.jpg

But here's where it gets interesting. Apparently, ten years before the Erector Set arrived in American stores-- a British inventor named Frank Hornby had already created something just like it in England called a Meccano Set.

lot131.jpg

And it turns out that one of the Meccano's first popular set of blueprints allowed hobbyists to construct their very own version of The Aeroscope!

In fact, here's one that was assembled by a modern-day Meccano fan named Gary Higgins-- and detailed on his own webpage, linked here:

Aeroscope in Meccano

As an interesting footnote-- today's Erector Sets are actually Meccano sets manufactured by Meccano S.N. of France, part of the Nikko Group of Japan!

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Posted · Report post

After the Eiffel Tower in Paris, it seems every exposition had to have some sort of tower or aerial ride.

A good example, of course, is the 1893 Ferris Wheel in Chicago and the 1901 Aeriocycle at the Pan American in Buffalo. At its highest point, visitors were lifted 275 feet into the air on this double ferris wheel called the Aeriocycle. Their objective, of course, was a panoramic view of the Pan and of the city of Buffalo. Some accounts indicate one could see the mists of Niagara Falls in the distance as well.

This is a wonderful photograph of the SF attraction. It appears that the idea of lifting people on a tower for a panoramic vista has continued. I have seen modern versions of this attraction at various theme parks.

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Posted · Report post

Thanks, Trey, the Aeroscope is new to me. I would think that would be just as popular an attraction today, as it was in 1915. Looks fun.

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