The History and Creation of Marbles

It is a curious thing how children of all times in many countries seem to get the same idea for games. The game of marbles, for instance has been played around the world since the beginning of history. Marbles has been played in nearly every city in the US.

Nobody knows just when marbles began, but it probably goes back to the first time someone discovered that a round pebble would roll. That dates back to before the Stone Age. Scientists have discovered Stone Age remains that contain little balls that were too small to be used for anything but games.

Long before the Christian Era, children in ancient Egypt and Rome were playing with marbles. In Europe, marbles were played in the Middle Ages. More specifically, the English version of marbles developed from a game called "bowls," very much like the game of bowling.

Today, some form of the game of marbles is played almost everywhere in the world. The South American children called their marbles "bolitas." In China, children play a game of marbles that involves kicking them. Persian peasant children play with baked mud marbles, or small pebbles. Even the Zulus (an African tribe) play a version of marbles!

In the US, children usually play with two kinds of marbles, called "shooters" and "play marbles." Shooters are also called "taws" in some areas of the country. A shooter cannot be larger than 3/4" in diameter, and no smaller than 17/32". It may be glass, clay, agate, or plastic. Wood is rarely used as a shooter because it is too light to move the other marbles. The shooter is the players favorite marble which he uses over and over to shoot at the other marbles.

Play marbles, or "mibs," are the marbles at which the player aims his shooter. They can be any stone, glass, or plastic. Sometimes the play marbles are named after the material they are made out of, such as glassies, clayies, and agates. Players, usually being small children, trade marbles with each other on a self-determined value system.

Most of the natural baked clay marbles and those of natural onyx come from Ohio, USA. Glass marbles are usually made by melting the glass and, while it is hot, pressing it between two halves of metal molds.

Most facts taken from Welbers Encyclopedia, volume 19, page 47.

Mar"ble (?), n. [OE. marbel, marbre, F. marbre, L. marmor, fr. Gr. , fr. to sparkle, flash. Cf. Marmoreal.]


A massive, compact limestone; a variety of calcite, capable of being polished and used for architectural and ornamental purposes. The color varies from white to black, being sometimes yellow, red, and green, and frequently beautifully veined or clouded. The name is also given to other rocks of like use and appearance, as serpentine or verd antique marble, and less properly to polished porphyry, granite, etc.

Breccia marble consists of limestone fragments cemented together. -- Ruin marble, when polished, shows forms resembling ruins, due to disseminated iron oxide. -- Shell marble contains fossil shells. -- Statuary marble is a pure, white, fine-grained kind, including Parian (from Paros) and Carrara marble. If coarsely granular it is called saccharoidal.


A thing made of, or resembling, marble, as a work of art, or record, in marble; or, in the plural, a collection of such works; as, the Arundel or Arundelian marbles; the Elgin marbles.


A little ball of marble, or of some other hard substance, used as a plaything by children; or, in the plural, a child's game played with marbles.

Marble is also much used in self-explaining compounds; when used figuratively in compounds it commonly means, hard, cold, destitute of compassion or feeling; as, marble-breasted, marble-faced, marble-hearted.


© Webster 1913.

Mar"ble, a.


Made of, or resembling, marble; as, a marble mantel; marble paper.


Cold; hard; unfeeling; as, a marble breast or heart.


© Webster 1913.

Mar"ble, v. t. [imp. & p. p. Marbled (?); p. pr. & vb. n. Marbling (?).] [Cf. F. marbrer. See Marble, n.]

To stain or vein like marble; to variegate in color; as, to marble the edges of a book, or the surface of paper.


© Webster 1913.

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