The 8 Most Wildly Irresponsible Vintage Toys
These days, if a stuffed animal's plastic eye so much as wiggles, that toy is recalled faster than you can say "class action lawsuit." Back in the day, though, child safety consisted of just getting out of the way and letting natural selection do its thing. If a kid was too dumb to play with a toy the right way, well, he'd just have to learn to get along with one less eye.
That meant molten glass, molten metal, hazardous chemicals -- all were included in toys back then ... on purpose.
Gilbert Glass Blowing Set
That kid behind him is eagerly waiting for a bong.
Glass blowing, if you didn't know, is the art of working with molten fucking glass to make your very own glass containers. Oh, and you do it by blowing into a wad of molten glass with your mouth. Bizarre as it sounds, glass blowing was considered a useful skill for a young man to have half a century ago. Universities actually required chemistry students to make their own test tubes, once they were done carving their desks out of lumber.
They'll be fine if they don't inhale. Or slip.
Keep in mind that in order to be able to change the shape of the glass, first it has to reach its softening point, which is around 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The Gilbert Glass Blowing Set encouraged children to try this with their bare hands in order to carry out a series of wildly irresponsible experiments detailed in the manual:
We did find that when the glass becomes red hot it removes all the skin from our hands.
Another one involved blowing up a bubble of hot glass until it burst in your face, as if that's not how every single project would end anyway.
Gilbert Molten Lead Casting Kit
"Over 10 IQ points lost with every pack!"
Gilbert's Kaster Kits (yes, Gilbert, the same people who gave you the glass blowing kit) allowed you to create your own army of tiny metallic minions ... which sounds kinda awesome until you realize it involved casting them from molten lead by yourself.
Try not to feel like Saruman while you do so, we dare you.
As in, put metal slugs into a little melting pot, and once they were molten, scoop up the molten metal and pour it into a mold. That really sounds like a risk someone should be paying you to take, not the other way around.
These sets came out in the late 1920s and early 1930s, but holy shit, we're pretty sure they'd invented common sense by then.
They included supplies for making soldiers, battleships, airplanes, cannons and horses, among other things. Ten bucks says more than one kid injured his hands trying to hastily reshape a hot chunk of lead into a nudie girl.
Or you could use a knife to sculpt boobs directly into the mold. We've given this some thought.
Later models did include a machine that did the pouring, but it still had an open top, which doesn't sound like that much of a safety improvement ... despite the ads' best efforts to convince us otherwise:
"Absolutely safe"? That sad ghost-boy face haunting the kit says otherwise.
Stevens' Model Dockyard Locomotive
There has to be something wildly dangerous about this thing to make us care.
In 1843, realizing that boys might want a toy train that did more than just sit there, the Stevens Company created the Model Dockyard Locomotive, one of the first ones that actually moved. Of course, the main reason why toy trains didn't move up to that point was simply that the technology didn't exist. The Model Dockyard Locomotive got around that limitation by using a real steam-propelled engine that required kids to pour either kerosene or alcohol into the train and then light it.
It also comes in a "battered pipe-bomb" edition.
It even came with a little boiler attachment to heat the water. Apparently, 19th century adults had a lot more faith in kids not accidentally setting themselves on fire than we do.
Either that or they really hated children.
But wait, that's not the dangerous part yet. The toy steam engines of this era were nicknamed "dribblers" or "piddlers" because they tended to piss a continuous stream of alcohol or kerosene-laden water as they rolled along the floor. This safety hazard didn't stop the Model Dockyard Locomotive from becoming a popular children's toy in England back then, mainly on account of the strength of its "Fuck safety! This thing fucking moves!" slogan.
Thankfully modern action cinema has made us aware of the dangers of leaking fuel.
Also, at this point toy trains didn't even have tracks, so kids could just set them on a path of destruction across the house and then light the kerosene coming out of the back, leaving a blazing trail of death. (Or at least that's totally what we would've done.)
The fire speaks to us.
Powermite Working Power Tools
Ahhh, look at the tiny serrations on that blade!
Powermite Tools allowed kids to play with fun-sized replicas of the tools Dad used every day at work, including the one that tragically cut both his hands off. Yes, unlike that pansy-ass plastic shit they sell now, these were actual working tools made of die-cast metal, only recognizable as a children's product due to the fact that they were smaller.
"Small, sharp things can't hurt you."
The blades in that circular saw up there probably aren't sharp enough to pierce through a human skull, but still, we dare you to find a used set on eBay that doesn't come decorated with suspicious red stains.
But hey, you can also use them as ninja stars!
Another winning Powermite product was the battery-operated table saw, which looks like a hamster-sized version of a James Bond death trap (and was probably used as such). If mutilating himself or others wasn't enough, a boy could also "play" with the Powermite router, hand drill, orbital sander, buffer, drill press and sabre saw. Somehow.
Note that the sabre saw comes with a spare blade, in case the first one has been dulled by bone.
The sets came with instructions to build lame little projects out of balsa wood and Styrofoam -- as if that was enough to distract boys from realizing that they could also wreak havoc with these things. Meanwhile, girls were stuck with their lame but perfectly safe little dolls and stuff like that ... right?
Working Toy Ovens, Irons and More
Yeah, the burn marks on that toy pretty much say it all. That's an electric toy stove from the 1930s or '40s that could actually be plugged in and heated up, which isn't just dangerous, it's also completely pointless. What are you supposed to heat in there, a canape? Some peanuts? Your brother's mutilated hamster?
That's terrible. Hamsters are more suited to waffle irons.
Electrical kitchen toys were actually pretty popular back then, because when you're training your daughter to be a housewife it's also important to make her aware of the inherent dangers that come with the job. Not doing so would be irresponsible. Stores sold tiny irons, coffee pots, bread toasters and so on, all with names like Sunny Suzy or Little Deb, as if a cutesy name was somehow enough to make them remotely entertaining. However, even the ones that prided themselves on being safer than the competition were negligent:
"Ruth later finds out what 'skin graft' means."
Note that the "double insulation" that supposedly protects you from heat and electricity is only available if you're willing to dish out the extra 50 cents for the more expensive iron. Also, it only heats up to 250 degrees? As the website we cribbed this ad from points out, that's 40 degrees hotter than boiling water. But hey, kids gotta learn somehow.
What most of them learned was "Never trust your parents."
Gilbert Chemistry Set
Baby's first meth lab.
There's that Gilbert guy again. This may look like a pretty safe (boring) science kit, but among the 56 chemicals included in the Gilbert chemistry set was some potentially deadly stuff. Like potassium permanganate, which, besides being poisonous, has been known to make things catch fire. Or ammonium nitrate, the same chemical that the U.S. wants to regulate now because it's used in homemade bombs. All that came in the same box -- at no point in history has being a young nerd on his birthday been so dangerous.
But come on, this was a more innocent time. Mr. Gilbert probably never even thought that kids would use his sets for that sort of --
"Remember, kids, don't be evil!"
OK, no, scratch that. The manual itself taught kids how to create explosions with gunpowder -- on the first page -- and the sole safety feature consisted of a single line telling them not to attempt the same experiment on a larger scale ... which only served the purpose of informing kids that this was a possibility.
"Do not attempt to ... hot dog, I just had an idea!"
After remaining popular for the first half of the 20th century, Gilbert chemistry sets fell from grace in the '60s and '70s (following a series of entirely predictable lawsuits). However, at one point these hazardous kits were endorsed by both Good Housekeeping and Superman himself.
Of course you'd say that, Superman, you're freaking invulnerable. What do you care?
But it turns out that chemistry sets weren't the only children's toy stuffed with dangerous chemicals back then ...
Austin Magic Pistol
"We call this one the 'Jetson special'."
Made in the 1950s, the Austin Magic Pistol allowed you to shoot plastic balls at your friend's penis. We suppose you could shoot them at other things, too, but honestly why would you?
So how did it work, was there a loaded spring in there or something? Nope, the balls were fired by mixing "magic crystals" and water in the back of the gun -- and by "magic crystals" they really meant "dangerous chemicals," of course.
And by "gun" they meant ... no, no, this is an actual explosive device.
Calcium carbide is on all kinds of hazardous materials lists because when it comes into contact with liquid, it forms a flammable gas. This isn't some unforeseen side effect the makers of this toy could have never predicted -- it's exactly how those freaking balls were fired. There was a literal explosion happening in the back of the toy gun every time your gentle child fingers pressed the trigger, which would launch the ball up to 70 feet away.
Just a little bit of spit was enough to cause the reaction, as demonstrated in this video of a couple of dudes firing one in a trailer park (also they appear to have tried some of the magic crystals themselves):
And if you used up all the powder, maybe you could borrow some ammonium nitrate from your Gilbert chemistry set for a bigger chemical reaction.
The best toys are dangerous for everyone.
Atomic Energy Lab
This is how Lex Luthor disguises his superweapons.
As a kid, did you ever swallow or at least put in your mouth a small piece of a toy or play set? Did you grow an extra arm because of it? No? Then you probably didn't have the Atomic Energy Lab.
You see, there was a different approach to nuclear power in the '50s and early '60s -- atomic energy was our friend and the way of the future, and it would never do anything to hurt us. However, it's still hard to believe that anyone would entrust kids with radioactive material (even in small doses).
That "bonus" is actually your bounty if captured alive.
Yet, the Atomic Energy Lab kit produced by the American Basic Science Club came with real samples of uranium (which is radioactive) and radium (which is a million times more radioactive than uranium). Since the mere presence of radioactive material in a children's product clearly wasn't insane enough, some of the experiments detailed in the manual also required kids to handle blocks of dry ice. Dry ice, by the way, has a temperature of minus 109.3 degrees Fahrenheit, and it's recommended that it only be handled while wearing gloves (none were included).
It was always doubtful whether Gilbert and their mutated customers would be around after 50 years.
Gilbert, of course, couldn't be left behind and introduced their own Atomic Energy Lab, which also came with radioactive samples and even a little Geiger counter that kids could use to measure the amount of radiation left in their bodies after each play session.
Apparently you CAN just walk into a store and buy plutonium in 1955, Doc Brown.
For more toys children shouldn't have, check out 11 Modern Technologies That Are Way Older Than You Think. Or learn about toys we wished we grew up with in 8 Old School Toys That Got Badass Makeovers.
And stop by LinkSTORM to see what happens when Swaim sets up his own atomic energy lab.
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