ABOVE: Contestants lagging
(deciding the order of play) at the 2005 Akron District Marbles
Marble Tournament History
Records of marble tournaments in the Akron area
date back to the post Civil War era, but large scale, organized,
marbles tournaments didn't begin in the USA until the early 1920s.
The Akron District Marbles Tournament dates back to 1923. It began
as a newspaper promotion for the Scripps Howard newspaper syndicate,
with the Akron Press being one of 40 Scripps Howard papers
participating in the promotion. The finals, called The United States
Marbles Shooting Championship Tournament, were held in Atlantic City
Samuel C. Dyke, father of the American toy marble industry and an
old newspaper man himself, assisted in the start-up of the
tournament and seemed to have as much fun as a spectator as the
young champs competing in Atlantic City.
Volunteer, Ula Wiedie (Samuel C. Dykes granddaughter) greeting
contestants at the registration booth for the 1992 Akron
District Marbles Tournament.
In 1928, Akrons Al Huey won the Akron District
Marbles Tournament and then went on to win the title of National
Marbles Champion. In the following year, 1929, one of Al's
neighbors, Mike Batche, was the National Runner-up.
Soon after World War II, the Veterans of Foreign
Wars started the first truly nation-wide marbles tournament, called
The National Marbles Tournament. In the 1950s, the Akron Marbles
Champs went on to complete in these VFW tournaments. Then, in the
mid 1970s, The Akron District Marbles Tournament died out. The
specific causes for its passing have yet to be thoroughly
researched, but most likely are no different from the causes for
these tournaments disappearing from nearly all the cities (that once
held large marble tournaments every Spring) in the USA. The only
exception has been an alternative organization that also calls
itself The National Marbles Tournament and that holds a finals in
Wildwood, New Jersey. However, in 2003 this organization became a
closed group, exclusively for children between the ages of 10 and
12, most of whom were from tiny, Appalachian communities.
In 1991, The American Toy Marble Museum brought back the Akron
District Marbles Tournament. For a while they sent a few of their
champs to New Jersey's National Marbles Tournament and sponsored a
few underprivileged champs from from Missouri and Tennessee to play
there, too. Then, in 2003, the museum created The All-American
Marbles Tournament, as a marbles tournament for all children. The
museum is now actively recruiting local partners and opening branch
museums throughout the United States to encourage marbles playing
and tournaments. Of course, their champions can compete at a
nation-wide finals in Akron, Ohio: on the very site where the first
marbles were mass produced in the USA Lock 3 Park, home of The
American Toy Marble Museum.
In 2005, the Akron District Marbles Tournament had roughly 5,000
children participating in its yearly marbles tournament programs. In
other words, more children competed here than in all the other
tournaments held in the United States this year, combined.