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Marbles, and Where They Come From (1883)

October 25th, 2014,

Harper's Young People Marble ArticleThis fascinating article from Harper's Young People describes marbles as they existed in America in 1883.

It brings up the sad reality that child labor in Germany made these marbles so affordable to Americans. 30 years later, early American marble manufacturers would appeal to Congress to raise tariffs in order to compete with the cheap German labor.

Today when we say "marbles" we generally mean glass marbles, but in 1883 marbles were alleys and glass marbles were novelties:

Then comes a very large and beautiful class or variety of alleys known as "glass marbles."

It also mentions contemporary nicknames for German-made marbles, such as the "snow-flake" which based on the image appears to be either a cloud or mica marble.

This article had me asking myself why don't we spell "pee-wee" as they used to, "pea-wee"? As the author says of them:

They are comical little chaps no larger than a good-sized marrowfat pea.


Marble Photo Filter Fun with Picasa

July 6th, 2014,

Among the many neat image processing filters in Picasa, the free photo organizing tool for Windows, is one called "HDR-ish" that I think brings out the essence of marbles. I applied the HDR-ish filter to this group photo (first upping the fade option on the filter), and I think the result really does capture the essence of each marble vividly while highlighting the best aspects of each marble's construction.
Group Photo of Marbles with HDR-ish filter close-up

You might disagree, but I recommend you try it--and other filters--on some of your own marble group photos. Here is the original full-sized group photo of these marbles and the full-sized HDR-ish version.

And of course for sheer novelty it is hard to beat inverted colors such as on this group photo of Peltier rainbos. Notice the lamp highlight now appears to be a black eye in the center of each marble.

Peltier Rainbo marbles with inverted colors


Morphy Auctions Marbles coming May 3rd

April 23rd, 2014,

Pink and White Opaque MarbleOnce again Morphy Auctions will be auctioning off hundreds of spectacular lots of vintage machine made and handmade marbles as well as some boxes and memorabilia.

The auction takes place at 9AM on May 3rd, 2014 in Denver, PA.

This time they are offering a digital PDF version of their excellent full-color catalogs (which I recommend you purchase). The PDF is nifty, but you will find much higher quality photos via their usual online catalog.


Historic Marbles Footage from British Pathé

April 20th, 2014,

When British Pathé uploaded its entire historic newsreel archive to YouTube this weekend, I confess that my first search was for marbles. With 85,000 films to search through, I knew I had a good chance to find footage new to me. Sure enough there were several and they did not disappoint.

My favorite so far is footage from 1938 of Headmaster George Briggs of Battle Ground Academy in Franklin, Tennessee, defeating students at marbles for the 10th year in a row.

You can visit the British Pathé YouTube archive and search to your heart's delight. Or if you just want to see search results in the archive for 'marbles' click here.


Alley Agate Book

April 14th, 2014,

Alley Agate BookLarry E. Alley III, grandson of L.E. Alley of the Alley Agate Co., tells me about his book which I have heard very good things about :

The book of 144 pages is about three generations of men by the name Lawrence Everett Alley, with a major emphasis on the elder member of the family, L. E. Alley, Sr.

Lawrence E. Alley, Sr. had a significant influence on the glass industry in West Virginia during his life. He made fine glassware, marbles and toy dishes. In addition to taking a glimpse into his personal life, this book chronicles his several attempts to start businesses during the time before the Great Depression and takes a detailed look at the products made by Alley Agate, his company that succeeded and still exists today with the name Marble King.

His son, by the same name, started his career as a partner in his father’s business, The Alley Agate Co. During World War II he also taught math in the St. Marys High School. He moved in 1948 with his family to Florida, and the company was sold. In Florida he owned the Clearwater Hardware Company for several years. Later he and his wife taught special education classes in the public schools. 

His grandson, Lawrence E. Alley, III, had a career as an electrical engineer, and is the author of this book. He left Florida to attend M. I. T. and stayed in Massachusetts to work for The Raytheon Company for 35 years. After retiring he worked at Bose in the home audio division. This section is more personal, as he reflects on how various events directed the path of his life.

You can order this important piece of history about the "Father of West Virginia Swirls" directly from Larry's website.


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Marble Trivia

Pink is a color rarely found in vintage marbles, probably because gold was required in recipes for pink glass.