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Dragons' Blood And Urinous Lixivium


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Not sure how many online book repositories there are.

One cache of books is the Google Book Search. A lot of their listings aren't online -- you just get a summary and hopefully a library or store where you can find the book -- but a lot of listings are complete.

There are some obscure ones. Many governement documents with bland or number intensive or otherwise tedious content. Many with just the slightest mention of the topic you'd be searching for. I am mainly noting them as something to be aware of. I'm going to try not to include too many of those in my list for the near future, though I might bookmark them for myself. Never know. One day you might actually wish you could put your hands on a one paragraph summary of the state of the Thuringian glass marbles industry in 1908, say. wink.gif


The Marble-workers' Manual, 1856. (other editions also available)

A book about working with marble in the big sense but it has a section on toy marbles, starting on p. 192.

Here's the source of the teaser in the title of the thread. . . . urinous lixivium ohmy.gif




1908 - 1909, discussion of tariffs on marbles

I know you'll want to read all 8000+ pages of the 1908 - 1909 Senate report on tariffs. Not! but some of you may be interested in five particular pages about glass marbles.

Volume VIII, Appendix. See pages 7881 through 7883.

A discussion of pros and cons of tariff increases, circa 1908-1909. The importer Strobel & Wilken argues against increased tariffs. M. F. Christensen & Son argues for an increase.

The importer's argument is that the marbles imported are substantially different from those made in the U.S. so there's no real competition. Also, the quantity of glass marbles coming into the U.S. seems to be on the decline, another sign that imports are not a threat. Strobel & Wilken ask that the tariffs on foreign marbles stay the same.

Martin Christensen discusses how young the U.S. toy marble and caster ball manufacturing business is. He gives October 1904 as MFC's starting date. He also gives an example of his production costs. He stressed that low wages in other countries allowed importers to purchase foreign marbles at a figure substantially below his costs, making this new industry a textbook example of what protection laws are intended to aid. A substantial increase in tariffs is requested.

And then here's a letter from the president of the United States Glass Company of Pittsburg, PA which mentions the new glass marble industry.

Schedule B, Earths, Earthenware, and Glassware. See pages 1089 and 1090.


I don't know yet whether there is more in that report about marbles, or caster balls, or M.F. Christensen. I haven't made a systematic search yet.

I already know there is a potential for a lot of information to be found in other documents using those keywords. Still without searching on purpose, I see a 1913 tariff report with another letter from Martin Christensen, and one written to him from Germany. Lots of details on wages.



I've misplaced one I found in December. Yes, another government report but it had a lot of information about German in the 1800's. Stats about regional industries, which of course included marbles. Wages. Cost of living. That sort of thing.

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The American Magazine, Vol XCII, the issues from July 1921 to December 1921.

The article, Did You Ever Buy a Toy for a Child?, by Sophia Delavan naturally mentions marbles. It's not a big mention, but it's an excuse to post an old magazine with nice graphics.

It starts on page 41 of the December issue. The text is sorta hard to navigate, or was for me, because there is more than one page 41. I couldn't get to the last one in the normal way. Here are some direct links.

Beginning of the December issue

First page of the toy article, p. 41

Continuation of article, on p. 129

The marble mention is on p. 130. It gives an explanation of "reelers", and gives a price. Uses the term "tiger eye" in a new way for me.

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  • 1 month later...


The Life and Adventures of Mr. Duncan Campbell, by Daniel Defoe

This book used to be mentioned fairly often in articles about marbles. Many (most? all?) quote Defoe as saying "marbles and alleys". But it appears that the word he used was "alloys". Alleys makes sense as Alabasters, but Alloys makes sense as composite materials. "Marbles and alleys" might be redundant.


Here's an example of what seems to be a misquotation -- the 1903 book Slang and Its Analogues Past and Present by John Stephen Farmer.


Note: the "pellets, vulgarly called alleys, which boys play withal" reference should have an earlier date than 1807. This text has the reference and it was published in 1756. The quotation maybe be older than that. I see a reference to the year 1665 but I am having trouble reconciling that date and the names Hauksbee and John Martyn. Perhaps when I read more I will learn that this is being quoted from some other place. But we at least have as early 1756.

The alley reference is in a table of specific gravities computed for various items. The table seems to have been compiled from various sources. The reference to alleys, and a later reference to marbles, are apparently to help make clear what substance is being measured.

Doesn't "pellet" sound more like clay than stone?

(click to enlarge)


On the 2nd page check out the reference to spotted factitious marble. What would that be?!

John Martyn (? - 1680) at Wikipedia

Francis Hauksbee, the elder (1666-1713)

Francis Hauksbee at Wikipedia

Francis Hauksbee, the younger (c. 1687 - 1763)

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all of that was because I finally decided to check out that Defoe passage after seeing it for the umpteenth time this evening when I pieced together the following:


(click to enlarge)


Sorry if the ransom note look seriously bugs anyone. I sorta like it. Breaks up the monotony of plain type. blush.gif

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West Virginia: A Guide to the Mountain State By Federal Writers' Project, 1941


Surprisingly little about marbles actually.

There's a Libby Owens Ford / Vitrolite mention, but nothing about Vitro, Ravenswood, Alley, ....

The only marbles reference I found was this about Akro, and a related one 5 pages earlier:


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AMMM said that at their time of peak production they had 6 or 7 machines in operation. In spite of a success enough to supposedly merit an expansion of the facilities in 1946, I imagine that whatever was reported before the the war would be close to peak.

Also, 120 sounds like a figure which would might have come from multiplying the estimated output for a single machine by 6.

20 marbles a minute per machine?

Sounds like a figure we ought to be able to confirm somehow. But I'm not sure where to look at the moment. It could even be in the Akro chapter of AMMM. I need to read that chapter thoroughly soonish. Love that book but the fine print means it's not all that skimmable. :-)

Note: In 1903, Martin Christensen's machines could already make about 10 marbles per minute. (apiece)

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  • 2 weeks later...


Marble making machinery is mentioned in connection with the William J. Miller Company in Golden Progress: History and Official Program of the 50th Anniversary Celebration of Swissvale, Pennsylvania, 1898-1948. I hadn't realized he had his own company. Was he also affiliated with any particular marble manufacturer?

The book online is broken into parts. The marble mention is on p. 81, found in Part 7.

Title page: Part 2

(click to enlarge)


Mr. Miller had many patents on glass. Plugging in the keywords, miller, glass and swissvale at the Google patents page pulls up many entries.


Leave out the word "glass" and you get bunches more. He apparently did a lot of work with pottery also. And had a "pottery engineering company", also in Swissvale?

Here, I believe is the patent for what we call the Miller machine:

Machine for Manufacturing Marbles and Similar Articles

Patent number: 1601699

Filing date: Dec 12, 1924

Issue date: Sep 28, 1926

Which if any of his other patents might be connected with marble making?

This one was a big deal, right? This is the famous Hartford-Empire patent?

Process and Apparatus for Feeding Glass

Patent number: 1942035

Filing date: Dec 20, 1929

Issue date: Jan 2, 1934

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Glass in the Old World

By Madeline Anne Wallace- Dunlop, Leadenhall Press

Published by Field & Tuer, 1882

For one thing, it mentions "sealing wax red", that is to say, oxblood.

1900, reprinted 1907

Another result I found ... well, sort of found ... was Recipes for Flint Glass Making. Found it mentioned in the ad sections of different early 1900's books, for example, on p. 16 of the Catalog of Special Technical Books at the end of The Chemistry of Essential Oils and Artificial Perfumes (1908).

The contents list mentions the "Sealing-wax Red".

Also mentions "Dead White" with the parenthetical note that it would be "for moons". So, is this moss agate glass? Or moonie glass? Or something else?

It's also in a 1903 book on Gutta Percha. The ad is on pp. 16, 17 of the catalog at the end, but maybe the Gutta Percha book would be cool in its own right. :-)


Ah, here's one, Elements of Glass and Glass Making.

By Benjamin Franklin Biser, Julius Arnold Koch

Published by Glass and pottery publishing company, 1899

Copper red starts on p. 124. It has recipes.

P.s., I got the keyword "sealing wax red" from Brian Graham's page here: Melting Oxblood or Haematinum red glass. Other keywords he gives, “brick red”, "Sang de Boeuf" and “dark red”.

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Small mention but interesting.

International Exhibition, Reports and Awards, Group II

By United States Centennial Commission, Francis Amasa Walker

Published by J.B. Lippincott, 1878

Item notes: v. 1-2

From page 257:



Also, here is a brief mention of toy marbles in connection with the 1851 International Exhibition in England. The table seems to be a catchall list of imports to England -- or is that to the city of Hull? Don't imagine this to be "interesting" but who knows when it might turn out to be "useful".

Official Descriptive and Illustrated Catalogue, Vol. 2, page 816


Better: At the New York exhibition we see that E. G. Vetters, Jr. makes "imitation agate marbles in glass":

Official Catalogue of the New-York Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations, page 135

By Association for the exhibition of the industry of all nations, New York Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations

Contributor G.P. Putnam and Co

Published by G.P. Putnam & co., 1853

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Fifty years and over of Akron and Summit County:

embellished by nearly six hundred engravings--

portraits of pioneer settlers, prominent citizens,

business, official and professional--ancient and

modern views, etc.; nine-tenth's of a century of

solid local history--pioneer incidents, interesting events--

industrial, commercial, financial and educational progress,

biographies, etc. (1892)

That has information about Martin Christensen's company, the Drop Hammer Forging Company, aka the Drop Hammer Forge Company. The official entry is small but the company is referred to at least one other place. I don't yet know if the book has info on marbles. I haven't done the search for that yet. Just trying at the moment to get some good screenshots of the text related to the Drop Hammer Forge co. Need to do that before I shut the computer down. The PDF version is a ginormous download, so I'm not saving it to my harddrive. Just going for the relevant screen captures.

Something is said on the archive page about a date of 1887, but the year 1890 is given as the date of incorporation for the company, so let's stick with the 1892 as stated above.

update: yes, there is info about marbles.

Whoa! Before the American Marble and Toy Manufacturing Company started making marbles they made toy jugs. No surprise there. But do you know how many? It says they were so popular that within 3 years 30,000 were made a day. That's a bunch of jugs. Where are they now?

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  • 3 weeks later...


"More on Marble Names and Games", an article by Joseph Jones in American Speech, Vol. 10, No. 2 (Apr., 1935), pp. 158-159.

Published by: Duke University Press

Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/451751

(Accessible online for a price, but if you affiliated with an institution who subscribes to JSTOR you might be able to get it for free)

A snippet from google books:


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April 1932

The Popular Science issue with a short but nice article on the California Agate Co.


The item is on p. 51:


Well, here's the article. I "clipped" it out for the thread I started in January, back when pretty much all we had to go on was the company name and rough date and a mistaken caption in newspaper file photo.

(click to enlarge)


Note: the man at work in the factory photo is not Frankie's father. This article doesn't actually say he is but it almost sounds like it does, and the caption of the photo we started with in January said it was Frankie's father. We still don't know who the man in the photo is. Perhaps he is in fact R. W. Walker as the caption in the other photo said.

Here's the thread I started in January, and bumped in February with a cascade of discoveries. :-)

California Agates -- Marble Mystery

I have learned a few more things, but the thread is choppy enough as it is so I'm letting the other info simmer a bit.

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April 17, 1883

A. W. Roberts' classic, "Marbles and Where They Come From", published in Harper's Young People. That issue is online. Several versions can be found at archive.org: http://www.archive.org/details/harpersyoungpeop00newy1883.

The text can be found here.

The text was used and reused in newspapers and maybe other publications, with various amounts of editing. One example is this next one, in a New Zealand paper ....

November 12, 1898

From the Waimate Daily Advertiser:

The table of contents for the issue

The article


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The Far Eastern Economic Review, several years

Not entirely online, but snippets at Google Books enabled me to learn that Hong Kong built a marble factory in 1954, and it was used to make cat's eyes, which were described as "transparent marbles with colour-core".

That was from an article entitled "The Glass Marble Industry of Hongkong" in the 1956 edition.

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Marbles are frequently mentioned in archaelogical articles. Supposedly they can be used to help figure out the date of other items in the site.

Here's an article which might make some reference to that, but from my quick skim it seems that that author might just be learning about marbles, not learning from them. Still looks interesting.

Losing your marbles: Post-medieval gaming marbles of pottery and stone from Canterbury excavations

address: http://www.canterburytrust.co.uk/annreps/pdfs/1998/005.pdf (1.16 MB)

Hosted by the Canterbury Archaelogical Trust Ltd. site.

Some of the mibs under discussion:


[space reserved for other archaeology articles]

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  • 3 weeks later...


Stone: An Illustrated Magazine

Published 1897

Item notes: v. 14

Original from the New York Public Library

Not a lot of material but there are two J. H. Leighton factories mentioned on the same page. And one of the references is weird. See p. 630.


So ... did Leighton make marbles in Tennessee?

Marbles are also mentioned here. One of the 19th century documents claiming that figure marbles were made in molds.


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