American Toy Marble Museum

                                                                                           Lock 3 Park, Downtown Akron, Ohio

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Toy Marble Museum
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    ABOVE: Samples of what The American Toy Marble Museum has on display. Located in Lock 3 Park, is on the very grounds of one of America's first factories to mass-produce toy marbles: The American Marble & Toy Mfg. Co., founded by Samuel C. Dyke in 1891. Michael Cohill and Brian Graham conducted archaeological excavations and found a wide variety of toys (shown above).
     
    The American Toy Marble Museum is a chartered, non-profit organization of Ohio, but it does not compete for non-profit foundation grants. It is a partner in Akron After School and is working closely with The Akron History Exhibit, The Summit County Historical Society, The University of Akron, Archives, The Akron/Summit County Public Library, Special Collections Division, The Lighter Than Air Society, and Akron's Christkindle Market. In 1989, a group of interested citizens of Akron, Ohio – including Michael Cohill, Steven Mills and Elizabeth McGrath – recognized that their city’s role was significant as the birthplace of the modern American toy industry. They began talking about creating a museum, and in 1991 they founded the non-profit organization, The American Toy Marble Museum.
    Research, Preservation & Programs
    A Home for the Museum
    In 1991, the group assembled large collections of old Akron marbles and set up an exhibition, which they took on the road, visiting numerous cities all over the United States. These visits involved an entering into a partnership with the Hill Top Shopping Centers in the San Francisco Bay Area to create the largest public exhibition of marbles ever assembled. The title of the exhibition was “Putting A Spin On The Past,” and it opened in May of 1991 in Richmond, California. For the next four years, this exhibition traveled the country being viewed by hundreds of thousands of visitors, until it finally came back home to Akron, where it was shown in Akron’s State Office Building in 1995.
    BELOW: Both original and new displays at the current home of The American Toy Marble Museum.
    For the next seven years, they focused their attentions upon discussions with City officials and conducting museum activities without a home. These activities included researching historic manufacturing techniques, discovering old marble works sites, holding tournaments, providing school programs and creating other children’s programs. In fact, the museum developed various children’s programs for the Akron Public Schools, primarily serving under-privileged students, and now, with an expanded interdisciplinary curriculum based upon Texas State Proficiency Standards it is available to schools throughout the United States.

    In 2004, the museum acquired two large and very important archives on the subject of marbles, assembled by mibologists (researchers of toy marbles). These, in addition to the museum’s existing archives, now comprise the largest archives of primary research materials on marbles in existence. These archives will be transferred to the Special Collections Division of the Akron/Summit County Public Library, where brand new state-of-the-art archives for perpetual preservation have been built.
    Initially, the museum’s home was at the sight of America’s first modern glass marble factory, The M.F. Christensen & Son Company. While the museum took occupancy of the building, negotiations proceeded toward purchasing it. However, in 1995, while the negotiations to purchase Christensen’s old marble works looked promising, architectural plans showed the costs of restoration and conversion to public use at well over $1.75 million. Additionally, there was only parking for eight cars. At this point, the City of Akron, realizing the potential of attracting out-of-town visitors to our museum, promised to work with the board to find a new location. Disappointed, the group moved the museum out of the old marble works. The City of Akron made storage available in the Akron Industrial Incubator for displays; the University of Akron Archives stored other holdings.

    In the mid 1990s, the City of Akron remodeled the old, abandoned O’Neil’s department store in the heart of its Downtown business district into what is now the home of Roetzel & Andress, LPA. The adjacent, old and dilapidated parking deck that once served the department store and had to come down. They decided replace the parking deck with a new one, and with the remaining grounds, they decided to build a new city park: Lock 3 Park.

    Lock 3 Park sits on the site of the former American Marble & Toy Manufacturing Company (founded by S.C., Dyke, 1884-1904). This was the place of the very first toy marble company in the United States, and the first industrialized toy company in the world. While raising the old deck and turning the exposed land into a city park, many thousands of old marbles, toys and artifacts from this once great toy company were discovered and preserved. (Many of these are now on display at the museum.) The City of Akron, believing this might be a good fit, offered the use of this space for The American Toy Marble Museum. In May of 2002 the museum opened its doors to the public: it is free and supported by a volunteer staff. The City of Akron also built the museum a series of traditional, 15-foot, octagon shaped, clay marbles ring in the park for our children’s programming, the Akron District Marbles Tournament and the All-American Marbles Championship. During the museum’s 2004-2005 open season they enjoyed over 24,000 visitors.
    ABOVE: Children exploring an old game on the indoor ring at the current location of The American Toy Marble Museum.
    Today, the Akron District Marbles Tournament encompasses more children (up to 14 years in age) in its spring season marbles tournament programs than all other United States cities, combined. The All-American Marbles Championship was formed in 2002. In 2005, the museum had roughly 5,000 children participating in its yearly marbles tournaments.
     

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