Manufacture of Solid Glass Spheres
My grandfather taught me how to knuckle
down. That is, he taught me how to play
marbles, and when I spent time with him
in my grandparents’ pink mobile home,
I’d often ask to play. He’d haul out his old
marbles from when he was a kid, and we’d
get down on the floor. He taught me to aim,
how to flick the marble out of my hand, just so.
And of course he sometimes let me win.
U.S. Patent № 432,127:
applied and granted in 1890: “Apparatus for
Rounding Plastic Clay Slugs,” covers both a
marble making device and a process, first
put into use in 1884 for turning out mass-
produced toys. One person could manufacture
eight hundred marbles per hour.
These marbles were all the evidence I had
of his youth. They were clay and glass
mostly, some chipped or cracked, but they
were all my favorite, the deep blues, reds,
greens and browns. They were childhood
for both of us.
U.S. Patent № 462,083:
applied and granted in 1890:
“Manufacture of Solid Glass Spheres”
covers both a glass-maker’s hand tool and
a manufacturing method of producing
marbles. These were the first glass marbles
made in the USA for commercial sale.
I played marbles with my friends, but it
different, playing over long distances
on the school playground, playing for keeps,
with very few rules. All we had to do was
touch an opponent’s marble and it was ours.
I never played this game with my grandfather’s
marbles. I played with slag. With steelies and
cat’s eyes purchased from the dime-store.
U.S. Patent № 802,495:
applied in 1902 and granted in 1905,
“Machine For Making Spherical Bodies of Balls,”
turned out the first machine-made glass marbles
were the first mass-produced objects that were
so spherical that reporters called it “The perfect
glass ball machine.”
His name was Murray. I do not know how he
survived childhood with that name, but it suited
him as a grandfather. He made being the father
of my father seem almost childlike. As if this
relationship gives you a second chance to be that
kid you wanted to be with your own son, a kid
living in your house looking for guidance
on how to be an adult, so you had to be an adult.
The grandchild already has this guidance, so Murray
finally had his chance to show me how to reverse
the spin on a deep green sphere. He taught me
In 1910 the Marble Auger — the same machine used
even now — is capable of turning out a million marbles
When my grandfather died, I ended up with all his
marbles. This is not joke, but he would laugh with me
anyway. I still carry one in my pocket, as a reminder to
play, to be the person my grandfather saw in me
on his floor, knuckle down, eye close to my shooter.
I miss him, and that’s all I wanted to say.