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Clay and Crockery Marbles


Manufactured mainly in the last part of the nineteenth and the early part of the twentieth century, they are probably the latest of what are considered antique marbles, and the most numerous. The marbles were made both in Europe and in the United States, and possibly produced in other areas as well. A few clay marbles often were made by workmen for their children at factories which produced tile or other products. Factories producing clay marbles as a major product for sale were less numerous.

The first American factory was probably that owned by C. Dyke in South Akron, Ohio, in 1884. This factory enjoyed such a large business that it developed an output of 30,000 marbles a day. Another producer of clay marbles was an old German pottery factory located in Limaville, Ohio, operated by a My. Kuntze and his sons, with other employees from the immediate area. The factory was located next to the tracks of the Cleveland and Pittsburgh Railroad, which proved to be disastrous. Several large fires blamed on the passing trains, destroyed most of the plant, except for the kilns.

After the site stood idle for some time, it was purchased by the Lightcap and Allbright Company from Ravenna, Portage County, Ohio. The new company proceeded to rebuild the plant, a new office, and revamping the old kilns to suit their needs. They brought in new machinery to be used in the manufacture of clay marbles and set it up. One machine ground the clay, another was a wad cutter to cut the clay. The small, cut wads of clay were then placed into long wooden drums suspended diagonally on power driven line shafts, which rolled the wads until round. During the process, the wads hardened and were made firmer due to the high temperature in the drums. The marbles were then placed in fired clay saucers to be fired. Wood was used initially to heat the kilns, but later, soft coal would be used. After firing, the marbles were placed in long wooden cylinders and dyed, which completed the manufacturing process. Marbles were inspected, graded, and placed in small cloth sacks for shipment to various stores. Business boomed for the plant until another fire once again destroyed it sometime between 1906 and 1910.

Clay marbles come in all different colors, sometimes solid, sometimes lined, sometimes mottled or spotted, and often having no color at all except that of the clay. All sizes of marbles are represented in clay marbles, smaller sizes being more common. Larger sIzes comparable to large German swirls or sulphides probably were never produced. Marble shape is also quite varied, some being oblong or flat-sided due to the crude method of production. Most surviving today are chipped and battered due to fact that they were the target mables in most games.

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