American Toy Marble Museum

                                                                                           Lock 3 Park, Downtown Akron, Ohio

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    A Brief History of the
    Birth of the Modern American Toy Industry
    in Akron, Ohio

    ABOVE: Samuel Comely Dyke (1856-1924)

    Akronite Samuel C. Dyke ignited the modern toy industry when he automated his factory in 1884. Toy marbles have been around for thousands of years; however, until recently, they were very expensive to produce because they were created by hand: one-marble-at-a-time. Sam Dyke changed all that when he invented machinery to fully mass-produce toy marbles made out of clay, later to become nick-named "commies" by the children who were enthralled by them (because they became so common among all the varieties of marbles to be eventually produced).

    A few years after the much neglected Ohio canal system had been returned to the state, in 1884, Samuel C. Dyke opened shop on the grounds of the old lumber yard that had once been Lock 3. His factory turned out the first mass-produced toy, clay marbles, which were manufactured for sale to the Merrill Pottery, one of the largest potteries in the United States at the time (and the business right next door).

    This sudden mass-production caused the price of a toy to dramatically plummet -- so much so that, for the first time in history, many children could afford to buy a toy with their own money. (A penny bought a handful of clay marbles.) The success of Dyke's Akron Toy Company spurred other entrepreneurs to start up their own marble works in the Akron area. A few years later, in 1891, Sam Dyke founded The American Marble & Toy Manufacturing Company, and it was this factory that became the largest toy company to operate in the United States during the nineteenth century.

    ABOVE: Clay marbles discovered in the Akron area. BELOW: Click on the image below to explore these antique toys now preserved at the museum.

    With a capitol stock of $100,000.00 and an employment of roughly 350 "hands" (350 people), most of whom were women and children. In addition to making glazed stoneware, the business made earthy miniature replicas of such items as: jugs, pots, boots, shoes, dogs and cats -- which at the time were considered children's toys. The company also produced "china" marbles, made of porcelain, which became the finest shooter marbles available at the time. However, the corporation's primary products were common clay toy marbles, called "commies."

    Around the same time, leading members of the rubber industry took notice of this new children's market and soon were turning out the first mass-produced rubber toys, such as: rubber balloons, rubber balls, rubber dollies, rubber duckies and rubber baby buggy bumpers. The children's market also opened up with the mass production of cast iron toys, tin toys, bicycles, other peddle toys, tops, and children's books. Other companies expanded the market into adult play to include sporting goods such as golf balls and fishing tackle.

    In total, our research has identified almost 100 toy companies that operated within the greater Akron area since 1884; of that number, roughly 1/3 (three dozen) of them were marble works. These factories made all types and styles of marbles, from mass-produced clay and stone marbles to both hand-made and machine-made glass marbles.

    ABOVE: A U.S. Patent for a devise to mass-produce clay marbles. Marbles were rolled in the block until they attained a near-perfect symmetry. The patent was filed by S.C. Dyke on July 15, 1890, one year before he opened the new factory.


    Each day, the employees manufactured one million marbles. One million marbles is enough to fill five railroad box-cars. Five railroad boxcars rolling out of the factory once-a-day, filled with these clay toy marbles, made The American Marble & Toy Manufacturing Company the largest toy company to operate in the United States during the nineteenth century.

    However, on one unlucky day in 1904, thirteen years after it had been incorporated, The American Marble & Toy Manufacturing Company burnt to the ground. This unfortunate event appeared, to some young pilferers, to be a great day for marble collectors: the next morning, every little boy in Akron came down to scavenge and fill his pockets with marbles. This was no play ground, far from being a safe place for such innocent children to be hanging (and looting) about. The police were called in to keep these treasure hunters from unlawfully appropriating the marbles, and soon after, the city ordered the charred remains of the factory to be buried.

    There are still toy companies in the Akron area today: Little Tykes, Step Two, Eagle Rubber, Ashland Rubber are just a few of these thriving toy companies. However, Akron's last marble company, The Akro Agate Co., closed its doors in 1951.(Michael Cohill & Carol Robinson)

    Toy Marble Companies Represented at The American Toy Marble Museum:
    The Akron Toy Co., The S.C. Dyke & Co., Dyke's Stoneware Specialty Co., The Mishler Brothers Terracotta Works, The Limaville Marbles & Terracotta Works, The Albright & Lightcap Co., The J.E. Albright Co., The American Marble & Toy Manufacturing Co., The East End Marble Co., The Akron Stone Marble Co., The Akron Marble and Novelty Co., The Standard Toy Marble Co., The M.A. Knight Co., Brownís Marbleworks, The Akron Insulator and Marble Co., The M.F. Christensen & Son Co., The Akron Glass and Machinery Co., The Akro Agate Co., The Christensen Agate Co., James Harvey Leightonís Glass & Toy Marbleworks, Hobbs Brockunier & Co., The Buckeye Glass Works, The Eagle Glass Works, Iowa City Glass Works, The Ottawa Glass Works, The Bellmont Glass Works, The S.C. Dyke & Co., The American Marble and Toy Manufacturing Co., The Akron White Sand and Stone Co., The Akron Marble and Novelty Co., The Medina Glass Novelty Co., The Kent Glass Novelty Co., The J.H. Leighton & Co., The Navarre Glass Marble and Specialty Co., The M.F. Christensen & Son Co., The American Glass Marble Co., The American Marble Co., The National Marbles & Specialty Co., The Barberton Glass Novelty Co., The Shadyside Glass Novelty Co.



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