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Beautiful Marbles

Marbles Game History And Origin

marble image by Dan Johnson

Marble HISTORY! Marbles are small, hard balls made from clay, stone, wood, glass, steel or any other suitable material. They have been made for thousands of years and games with marbles are popular in countries around the world.

DEVELOPMENT AND HISTORY The earliest marbles were made of flint and stone and baked clay. Examples have been found in archaeological sites around the world and some of these, from Rome and ancient Egypt, can be found at the British Museum.

There are frequent references to marbles in Roman literature and it is probably fair to assume that the Romans took this popular form of entertainment with them to all parts of their empire.

For centuries thereafter the marbles were made of common stone or in some cases, real marble. China and crockery marbles were introduced around the year 1800 and before that glass marbles had been made in Venice. However, it was only when a German glassblower invented a tool called the marble scissors in 1846 that production became quick enough to make the sale of glass marbles to the public an economic proposition. These marbles became increasingly popular throughout Europe and America. An enormous variety of colors were used and intricate patterns were created within the glass.

Clay marbles began to be produced in bulk from about 1870 onwards on both sides of the Atlantic. In the 1890's the first machines for the manufacture of glass marbles were, introduced. However, machine production remained low until the 1914-18 war in Europe cut off supplies of marbles to North America. This stimulated the machine production of glass marbles in the U.S.A. This production technique and the machines themselves are now found in many countries, east and west.

At the time of writing, there are only thought to be three people in the world making glass marbles by hand. One of these modern, handmade ranges is available through the House of Marbles and one can still sometimes find early examples in antique shops. However they are much sought after as collectors' items and are becoming increasingly scarce. A marble made of pure, ground marble, or other suitable stone, is highly prized and regarded as being the most accurate for shooting. They are expensive and therefore they are rare. Conversely, clay marbles are very inexpensive, but they tend to be inaccurate in dimensions and dull in appearance and, although they were once the most common of marbles, lack of demand has made them hard to find. These days, marbles are made from all sorts of materials, but glass remains by far the most popular. Glass lends itself to machine production and provides an article which is appealing to the eye and the touch.

MACHINE MANUFACTURE The actual manufacturing process seems easy, although technically it is quite difficult. The glass is melted in a furnace and poured out. Different colored glasses are injected into the flowing glass if inserts are required in the marble. As the glass descends from the furnace, shears cut it into small cylinders of a regular size. These drop into moving, mechanical rollers which round them off and leave them to cool.

NAMES Names given to marbles vary considerably from town to town within each country. The best marbles are often known as ALLEYS. A marble actually being used by a player is often called a TAW or SHOOTER.

Marble games are generally played with cheaper glass marbles, but where expensive ALLEYS are used in games where fines are imposed, or where marbles are lost and won, it should be agreed in advance that fines or losses should be paid in cheap marbles and not ALLEYS.You can buy vintage marbles that can much more expensive and also very beautiful. However, you can also find a jar for a buck or two at a garage sale. It really just comes down to your need and interest in marble.

SHOOTING The most common method of shooting a marble along the ground is known as 'FULKING'. The knuckle of the forefinger is put on the ground and the marble balanced in the bent forefinger. The thumb is put behind the forefinger and then released with whatever force is required.

This method, however, is less accurate than 'KNUCKLING DOWN' which is the method used by experts. The marble held above the first joint of the thumb by the tip of the forefinger. The top of the thumb is held by the middle finger. The hand kept quite still with the knuckle on the ground. The thumb released with the required force. With practice, great accuracy may soon be obtained with this method.

When aiming, it should be remembered that the target should be steadily looked at, its exact position being thoroughly taken in by the eye while the marble is held in the hand. The eye directs the brain which automatically directs the hand.

So you may have thought of marbles as simply a popular item with children. However, as you can see they have a long history, and during parts of it have been popular with some adults as well. Marbles are such simple objects but they have been amusing us for centuries. They are an extrodinary child's product that is classic, timeless, and will amuse many long into our future.

And now if you made it this far, let's get to the GAMES! (finally) Back to the top of this document.

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