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A.C. Gilbert's Legacy Continues Online via Great-Granddaughter

Melissa Marsted

NEW HAVEN >> Industrialist/toymaker A.C. Glibert’s great-granddaughter Melissa Marsted remembers the moment she found out her house was being threatened in Santa Barbara, California, in tumultuous 2008.

 Marsted, a grant writer going through a divorce at the time as well as the loss of a consulting contract, had just returned from a run with the older of her two sons. “A friend had called and said, ‘Look out your window.’ And you could see the flames and the smoke probably about a mile away as the crow flies. We had about an hour to evacuate and then within 24 hours, 220 homes were lost, including mine.”

 It was the Santa Barbara Tea Fire that swept through tony Montecito, the fire so-named because it started at a historic structure called the Tea House.

 “For two years, I spent time searching for every single penny I could uncover through the fire insurance,” she said in a phone interview last week. “And then during that time I started Lucky Penny (Publishing).”

 The A.C. Gilbert legacy and Hamden connections live on in his descendants. His daughter (Melissa’s grandmother) Lucretia Rowbottom, whose first husband was a Marsted, started and ran The Toy Barn on Whitney Avenue in Hamden. Lucretia’s son Jeffrey Gilbert Marsted (Melissa’s father) lives in Canton, where Melissa grew up. But inspired by her grandmother’s work as a business owner, Melissa has started an e-book business that will donate part of its profits to the Eli Whitney Museum in Hamden.

 But back to 2008, also the year her mother had serious health issues and her father “was desperately trying to save his clients’ portfolios as the stock market was crashing.” 

 She was in a rental house when a friend came to her and asked what she’d really like to do after the fire. Marsted had already started a children’s book, so she spent the next year working on it. (Her illustrator’s house also was destroyed in the fire, but luckily she grabbed a CD of six of his illustrations as she fled the house.)

She self-published the book in print, but it was expensive and she only had 100 printed, at $45 a piece.

 “And then the iPad came out, “and I just said, ‘Why not turn them into e-books ... I started gathering friends who had children’s books they had already self-published, and then I found new authors and illustrators to work with,” said Marsted, who eventually settled in Park City, Utah.

 Sales of the children’s e-books weren’t great, so Marsted last year attained (from A.C.’s nephew David Gilbert) the e-book rights to A.C. Gilbert’s 1954 autobiography with Marshall McClintock, “The Man Who Lives in Paradise.”

 That started the Silver Dollar Press collection on her website LuckyPennybooks.com, which includes five books now with the new addition of her mother’s 1998 self-published journal about going through cancer.

 Bill Brown, director of the Eli Whitney Museum, is quoted in a Marsted released saying, “Originally published in 1954, ‘The Man Who Lives in Paradise’ is a complete history of the creative lives of the generations that thrived before television arrived as a thief of time and attention. ‘Paradise’ is also an account of the power of playfulness, which is evident in Gilbert’s long reign as one of America’s great toy-making entrepreneurs.

 “... Congratulations to Lucky Penny Publishing on the e-book publication of this book in the hopes of keeping his legacy and spirit of entrepreneurship alive.”

 As the Gilbert line continues, Marsted notes, one son is studying business and entrepreneurship at Babson College. Her fledgling e-publishing business may not be very substantial yet, but as a trained marathon runner, she said, she is determined to never give up.

 “I also taught my kids to make progress based on A.C. being a pole vaulter and raising the bar for them inch by inch, setting realistic goals.”

 

By Joe Amarante, New Haven Register

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