These days, parents worry about toys their kids play with being dangerous to an almost absurd degree. They’re always reporting this toy or that toy for potential choking hazards and whatnot. Well, back in the 1950s, parents shrugged all those worries off. If little Billy and Susie can’t survive their toys, maybe they’re just not tough enough for this world. And they’d buy them toys that would make modern parents shudder.
Case in point, “the most dangerous toy ever,” and it’s one that they actually sold to young kids. Thanks to Design Taxi, we’ve learned about the Atomic Energy Lab Kit. And the name of this kid’s toy wasn’t hyperbole. It actually emitted low levels of radiation. You can check out a detailed look at a surviving version of this kit in the video from Atlas Obscura below.
The following are not fake specs. This was the real deal. The Atomic Energy Lab Kit, released in 1950, contained four containers of uranium. Also beta-alpha, beta, and gamma radiation sources; a cloud chamber for ionizing particles; a spinthariscope to peer at decaying atoms; an electroscope to detect electric charges on the body; and a Geiger counter for measuring radiation. We bet some of that radiation resulted in problems for family pets, at the very least.
Apparently, the Atomic Energy Lab Kit could fuel up to one hundred and fifty unique experiments. Perfect for the budding little Lex Luthor or Victor Frankenstein of the house. The kit cost $49.50, which is about $530.00 today. So, basically for all the junior mad scientists with rich parents. Rich parents that hopefully had fire insurance. Notice there were no girls on the packaging. Total sign of sexism of the era; “Only boys liked science.”
There was a warning label at least. It stated, “Users should not take ore samples out of their jars, for they tend to flake and crumble and you would run the risk of having radioactive ore spread out in your laboratory.” Yikes. All jokes aside, it is a sign of a bygone era that enough kids had an interest in science back then to want this. I can’t see that many kids wanting something like this now. Most kids wouldn’t know what to do with one now if they saw it. Which is probably best for everyone’s safety.