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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.

Unglazed, Unfired Porcelain

These marbles are exactly the same as china marbles, except they were never fired to harden any glaze. They are of the same consistency as the clay marbles, but are distinguished by their white color and decorations painted on them. Unglazed china designs consisting of finely painted lines or patterns, including parallel bands or rings of different colors encircling the marble, two groups of parallel bands which cross each other forming diamond-shaped areas (often of different colors), circles or bull's-eye patterns often several placed next to one another, and a pattern of three leaves or a band of leaves encircling the center of the marble. All of these patterns may also be combined with each other. A marble may have two rings drawn at one end and a spray of three leaves at the other. Unfired porcelain marbles range from over 1 1/2" in diameter to around 7/16" in diameter. Some of these marbles were plain white without decoration, others may have turned gray with use.

Crockery Marbles

Many crockery marbles, especially brown- or blue-glazed ones, have been called Benningtons by dealers and collectors, because they bear a similar appearance to the blue and brown glazed Bennington pottery ware. According to the Bennington Museum in Bennington, Vermont, Bennington potters did not manufacture marbles as production items. It is possible that individual workmen made marbles for their own children, there is no evidence to prove it. It certainly would not account for the large number still existing. The great majority of crockery marbles were probably produced in Germany.

Made the same way as other pieces of pottery, marbles began as small pieces of clay, which were shaped into spheres, coated with glaze and fired. Most of these marbles are anything but perfect spheres, showing hurried and careless production to create large quantities without wasting time. "Bennington" type crockery marbles are distinguished by "eyes" which are present on the surface, which is a small circular spot often heavy enough to appear almost black. Most marbles contain one of more eyes, or stilt marks, which were formed at places where the marble was supported by or touched some other surface while the glaze was being fired. It is highly probably that brown marbles are probably more common than are the blue. Benningtons come in a wide variety of shades and intensity of the glaze, some dark brown with even darker almost black markings giving a mottled appearance. The glaze used on these marbles is often very thick and shiny. Some Benningtons are light tan with a barely noticeable glaze, and all kinds of intermediate color shades exist. No bennington is ever completely the same shade of brown all over. Some marbles have visible bluish or greenish markings along with the shades of brown.

The blue colored crockery marbles vary as well in depth of color and intensity of glaze. Many of these marbles have a mottled appearance, with the darker blue and lighter blue or white patches beign mixed together on the surface. Another color varietion has both blue and brown markings and often quite a bit of white. From the number of the bi-colored Benningtons that exist and the combination of distinct blue and brown (with sometimes a dash of pink or green), it may be safely assumed they were produced separately. The size of "Bennington" marbles ranges from about 1 1/2" in diameter to about 7/16" in diameter.

There are also rare crockery marbles in pink and dark green, where the color is solid rather than mottled. Another type of crockery marble exists, in which very few have eyes, those that do with small spots without glaze. A distinctive dark ring of thick glaze surrounds these spots in the "Bennington" type is absent. There is also a lined design painted on them like those of the unglaze, unfired porcelain marbles. These marbles are basically white in color with blue and green lines swirled about in an aimless fashion. A few may be green with blue swirled lines, blue with green lines and spots.

Clay/Crockery Marbles | China Marbles | Glass Marbles

Created July 15, 1997 by EMC ~ Updated 1/27/2007.
© Copyright 1997-2007 Refiner of Gold Creations

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