Playing with Marbles

The kids of yesteryear loved their sidewalk games, and the game of marbles was a favorite.

Unlike today’s machine-made glass marbles, antique marbles were not a uniform roundness. Instead, they were handmade, picked out from clay and rolled into shapes as close to perfect spheres as possible.

Sometimes, factory workers made marbles for their children with supplies available at work.

This allowed for each and every marble to be unique.

Most antique marbles were made in the late 19th and early 20th century. The first factory to make marbles was owned by C. Dyke in South Akron, Ohio in 1884. Unfortunately, the plant was built right next to the railroad, and passing trains caused large fires in the factory, destroying everything except for the kilns, putting the factory in an idle state until it was bought by new owners.

The new owners refined the process for making marbles. They used one machine to grind clay, one to cut it, then another to roll the clay into balls. Kilns fired the tiny balls and then they were dyed. The marbles became popular, but prone as the factory was to fires, it burned down again between 1906 and 1910.

Of course, this was just the start of manufactured marbles.

Antique and vintage clay marbles never fail to have character. Some have solid color, some have mixed; some are smooth, some have bumps and ridges either from their manufacture or from play.

Glazed clay marbles are often called Bennington: even though they actually have no relation to the Bennington company, they have a similar appearance to the blue and brown Bennington pottery.

Do you remember playing with marbles as a kid? There are tons of fun games and activities to do with marbles that keep kids occupied for hours. These games were especially popular in the early 20th century.


This is a fun and popular marble game:

Draw a circle on the ground, with about a two foot circumference.

Put a marble in the center.

The first player rolls or shoots another marble to hit the marble in the middle. If he misses, his turn is over.

The next player aims for the middle marble.

If either shooter hits the middle marble, he wins and keeps all the marbles in the ring.

The winner puts a new marble in the middle and the game starts again from the first step.

Did you play with marbles as a kid? What was your favorite game?