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.