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Hand-made marbles from West Africa
Different glass marbles from a glass-mill

A marble is a small spherical toy usually made from glass, clay, or agate. These balls vary in size. Most commonly, they are about ½ inch (1.25 cm) in diameter, but they may range from less than ¼ inch (0.635 cm) to over 3 inches (7.75 cm), while some art glass marbles for display purposes are over 12 inches (30 cm) wide. Marbles can be used for a variety of children's games, and are often collected, both for nostalgia and for their aesthetic colors.

Contents

History

Marbles are often mentioned in Roman literature, and there are many examples of marbles from ancient Egypt. They were commonly made of clay, stone or glass and commonly referred to as a "Glass alley".

Ceramic marbles entered inexpensive mass production in the 1870s.

A German glassblower invented marble scissors in 1846, a device for making marbles.[1] The first mass produced toy marbles (clay) made in the US were made in Akron, Ohio by S.C Dyke in the early 1890s. The first US glass marbles were also made in Akron by James Harvey Leighton. In 1903, Martin Frederick Christensen of Akron, Ohio made the first machine made glass marbles on his patented machine. His company, The M.F. Christensen & Son Co. manufactured millions of toy and industrial glass marbles until they ceased operations in 1917. The next US company to enter the glass marble market was Akro Agate. This company was started by Akronites in 1911, but was located in Clarksburg West Virginia. Today, there are only two American based toy marble manufacturers: Jabo Vitro in Reno, Ohio and Marble King, in Paden City West Virginia.

Gameplay

One version of the game involves drawing a circle in sand, and players will take turns knocking other players' marbles out of the circle with their own marble. This game is called ringer. Other versions involve shooting marbles at target marbles or into holes in the ground (such as rolly or rolley hole). A larger-scale game of marbles might involve taking turns trying to hit an opponent's marble to win. A useful strategy is to throw a marble so that it lands in a protected, or difficult location if it should miss the target. As with many children's games, new rules are devised all the time, and each group is likely to have its own version, often customized to the environment. While the game of marbles was once ubiquitous and attracted widespread press to national tournaments, its popularity has dwindled in the television age. [2]

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United Kingdom

Popular in the early nineties was a marble game called grids. Similar to rolly or rolley hole the object was to be the first to land one's marble into a hole. However a makeshift board was created using manhole grids. Each player would start at either end and attempt to thumb-flick their marble between the raised sections of the grid towards the removal hook holes. A player is not permitted to jump his marble over the raised sections but only travel down the grid lines. Each player takes turns until one reaches the hole. In a keepsy game the winner takes the other player's marble.

Taiwan

Yet another specialized version of the game (as played in Taiwan) involves a five-holed course and can be played by two to six players. This version is typically played on a flat hard-packed clay surface. Five divots, approximately 2 cm deep and 4 to 5 cm wide, are excavated in the four corners of a 1.5m by 1.5m square. The fifth divot is excavated in the center of the square where the square's diagonals intersect. The players each begin with one marble and a series of games of "rock-paper-scissors" determines the starting order of the players. The beginning player starts at one of the holes in the corner of the square and this hole becomes the designated "home" hole for the remainder of the game. The first player shoots for the center hole. If he or she successfully shoots his or her marble into the center hole (namely the marble comes to rest in the hole without bouncing out), then he or she gets to shoot for the hole to the right. In the event of a miss, the next player in line gets to start and he or she also can proceed until a shot misses a hole. The idea is to shoot the marble from the home hole to center, from center to right, right back to center, center to left, left back to center, center to top, top back to center, and finally from center back to home. The first player to complete this course becomes the "ghost" and is at liberty to shoot at the other players' marbles as they attempt to complete the course. If the ghost successfully hits another player's marble, the ghost then wins that marble and the losing party removes the marble from play and surrenders the marble to the ghost immediately. Although the ghost wins the match immediately upon completing the course, the game is not over until all players have either completed the course or had their marbles removed from play by the ghost.

Canada

In Canada, the game is played using a hole. Two or three people can play this way, either solo, or in teams of two. One simply makes a shallow or deep hole using the heel of their foot. Everyone then takes turns in no particular order to see who can get closer. The closest person gets to go first at flicking the marbles into the hole using the tip of the middle finger or the side of the pointer finger. In some games, feet are used to play. A player's two feet would create an upside down uppercase L shape, with the back foot pointing straight ahead and its toes touching or near the toes of the second foot, which was turned completely sideways, pointing either left (if the right foot was in front) or right (if the left foot was in front. The marble would be placed on the outside of the front foot, near the pinky toe. The back foot would then lightly tap the front foot, which would hit the marble in the desired direction. If the first person misses, the person who was second closest will then go. This will go on until all marbles are knocked in. Oddly, the person to knock in the last marble in the hole wins the marbles. No matter what, whoever plays must play for keeps unless the player say not to at the beginning of the game. If a player says "clearsies", then the player takes out all of the marbles and keeps them safe so they cannot knock the marbles out of the hole. If a player says "doctor", then they can get someone else to make the shot for them, but only one shot. If one is playing with "knockies", then both players play the same way, but the person to get closest does not go first—the person who gets furthest does. However, they must take their turn to move his marble back a little and the first person will try to flick the further marble to the closer one to try and knock it in the hole. after there is one marble left, you will play the last one normally.

New Hampshire

A curious version of marbles which used the feet, rather than the hands, to shoot was played in Derry, New Hampshire in the late 1970s. Players first made a target hole, by pivoting on a heel in the dirt. Paired opponents would take turns to see who would get their marble into the hole first, starting from a distance of up to about ten feet. The marble was aimed and propelled (in the case of a right-footed person) by the left foot being placed touching the marble so that the marble was at the outside, widest part of the foot forward of the arch. Then, with that left foot planted, and requiring a bit of a knock-kneed stance, the right foot kicks the inside of the left foot (directly opposite the marble). This kick dislodges the left foot into the marble, hitting it into the direction of the hole. The basic strategy was that the first one to sink their marble into the hole won the game, and kept the opponent's marble. A distinct advantage was gained by getting to shoot first. Marbles had a defined value system based on size and style, with very large marbles (termed "Elephant Eggs") being the most valuable, and requiring an equally-valued assortment of marbles to be included in the wager if play was to commence. Due to the two-player nature of the game, and the many players, school-grounds sprouted hundreds of holes, with many simultaneous games during recess. Marbles also became a distraction in the classroom, where they often spilled onto the floor from pockets or from slippery admiring hands.

Australia

In Australia, during the 1950s and 1960s, a very popular game with variety in its play was "Bunny Hole". The winner of this game was he who was first able to hit the other player's marble four times, but this had to be achieved under certain constraints. A hole was dug by pivoting the heel of the foot into the sand or dirt. A line was then marked out some 20 feet [6 metres] away, and each player in turn then pitched his marble from the line to see who could rest the marble nearest the bunny hole. The person whose marble came to rest nearest the hole would go first. This player would then attempt to 'fire' his marble in a manner so as to rest it in the hole. No 'hits' on other marbles were accounted to any player until he had successfully played his own marble into the bunny hole.

"Firing" a marble meant that a player had to flick his marble from a stationary position of his hand. No part of the hand firing the marble was permitted to be in front of the position where the marble had been resting on the ground. Using that hand he would flick or fire the marble from his hand, usually with the knuckle on the back of his hand resting on the ground, and usually using the thumb of that hand to do so. All shots of the game were conducted in this manner throughout except the very initial pitch towards the bunny hole that commenced the game.

Once a player was able to rest his marble within the hole, he would immediately then fire his marble at his opponents' marbles. However, if any player hit another player's marble before his own marble had been to 'visit' the bunny hole, the act would be referred to as "a kiss"; the game would be over, and all or both players (in the case of two players only) would have to retreat back to the starting line to re-commence the game, without result. This, of course, could be quite annoying or frustrating if a player had already built up quite a few hits on another player's marble! So, most skilled players did not resort to this kind of tactic.

The overall aim was to hit a particular marble 3 times after getting into the hole, then you had to "run away", before the final contact shot was allowed to be played - which was called "the kill". Once a player made a kill on another marble, if the game was 'for keeps', he would then get to keep the marble [bunny] he had 'killed'. The format of playing this game was that each time you successfully hit another player's marble, you were immediately allowed to have another shot - even if it was not the marble you had originally intended to hit.

Of course, the ploy was to hit the particular opponent marble 3 times, and then 'run away' to the bunny hole, because once you rested the marble into the hole, you immediately had your shot again, thus leaving no opportunity at all for your opponent to retreat his marble before "the Kill" was made on it.

World championship

The World Marbles Championships have been held at Tinsley Green, West Sussex, England every year since 1932.[3][4][5] (Marbles has been played in Tinsley Green and the surrounding area for many centuries:[6][3] TIME magazine traces its origins to 1588.[7]) Traditionally, the marbles-playing season started on Ash Wednesday and lasted until midday on Good Friday: playing after that brought bad luck.[4] More than 20 teams from around the world take part in the championship, each Good Friday; German teams have been successful several times since 2000,[3][6][8] although local teams from Crawley, Copthorne and other Sussex and Surrey villages often take part as well;[7][3][9] the first championship in 1932 was won by a team from nearby Hookwood.

Terms

  • "Kunchey" is the term used in north India to refer to both a game played with marbles, and the marbles themselves.
  • "Lakhoti" is the word for marble in many parts of western India, mainly in Gujarat. Names for types of marbles include anto, antak and picchi.
  • "Goli Gundu" is a Tamil term used to refer to both a game played with marbles, and the marbles themselves.
  • "Keepsies" (or "for keeps") is a variation in which players win the marbles used by their opponent.
  • "Knuckle down", the position adopted at the start line at the beginning of a match.You begin with your knuckle against the ground.
  • Marbles are also named by their color.
  • Quitsies: Allows any opponent to stop the game without consequence. You can either have "quitsies" (able to quit) or "no quitsies" (unable to quit).
  • "Elephant Stomps" when called allows a player to stomp his/her marble level with the ground surface making it very difficult for other players to hit the marble.
  • "Bombies" when called allows a player to take 1-2 steps while holding his/her marble and normally closing one eye will line up over one of the opponents marble and drop the marble trying to hit the marble on the ground.
  • "Leaning Tops" When called a Shooter leans in on his/her off hand for leverage over an indentation on any type of surface or obstacle.
  • A taw or shooter is used to shoot with, and ducks are marbles to be shot at.
  • Various names refer to the marbles' size. Any marble larger than the majority may be termed a boulder, masher, popper, shooter, taw, bumbo, crock, bumboozer, bowler, tonk, tronk, godfather, tom bowler, giant or Biggie. A marble smaller than the majority is a peawee or mini. A grandfather is the largest marble, the size of a pool table ball or tennis ball.
  • Various names for different marble types (regional playground talk, Leicester, UK): Marleys (Marbles), Prit (white marble), Kong (large marble), King Kong (larger than a Bosser), Steely (Metal Ball-bearing). Names can be combined: e.g. Prit-Kong (large white marble). There are many more such names as discussed in the next section.

Types of marbles

  • Alley or real - made of marble or alabaster (alley is short for alabaster), streaked with wavy or other patterns with exotic names like corkscrew, spiral, snake, ribbon, onyx, swirl, bumblebee, butterfly, and...
An orange and white toothpaste marble
    • Toothpaste - wavy streaks usually with red, blue, black, white, orange
    • Turtle - wavy streaks containing green and yellow
    • Ade - strands of opaque white and color, making lemon-ade, lime-ade, orange-ade, etc.
    • Oxblood - a streaky patch resembling blood
    • Oilie or Oily - Opaque with a rainbow, iridescent finish
    • Pearls - Opaque with single color with "mother of pearl" finish
    • Lutz - a type of swirl, taken from the skating term
    • Onionskin - swirled and layered like an onion
    • Clambroth - equally spaced opaque lines on a usually opaque base
    • Cat's Eye or catseye - central eye-shaped colored inserts or cores (injected inside the marble)
      • Devil's Eye - red with yellow eye
      • Beachball - three colors and six vanes
  • Aggie - made of agate (aggie is short for agate) or glass resembling agate, with various patterns like in the alley
  • Bumblebee - mostly all yellow with two black strips on each side.
  • China - glazed porcelain, with various patterns like in the alley
    • Plaster - a form of china that is unglazed
  • Commie or common - made of clay
    • Bennington - clay fired in a kiln with salt glaze
    • Crock - made from crockery (earthenware) clay
  • Croton alley or Jasper - glazed and unglazed china marbled with blue
  • Crystal or clearie or purie - any clear colored glass - including "opals," "glimmers," "bloods," "rubies," etc. These can have any number of descriptive names such as "deep blue sea".
    • Princess - a tinted crystal
    • Galaxy - lots of dots inserted like a sky of stars
  • Indian - dark and opaque, usually black some new ones are also many colors like blue, green and scarlet.
  • Mica - glassy to translucent with streaks or patches of mica, ranging from clear to misty
  • Steely - made of steel
  • Sulphide - clear with an object inside

Marble collecting

Some historic marbles

Marble collecting is a hobby practiced by over 400 million people around the world. Marbles are categorized by many factors including condition, size, type, manufacturer/artisan, age, style, materials, scarcity, and the existence of original packaging (which is further rated in terms of condition). A marble's worth is primarily determined by type, size, condition and eye-appeal, coupled with the law of supply and demand. Ugly, but rare marbles may be valued as much as those of very fine quality. However, this is the exception, rather than the rule - "Condition is King" when it comes to marbles. Any surface damage (characterized by missing glass, such as chips or pits) typically cut book value by 50% or more.

Due to the large market, there are many related side businesses that have sprung up such as numerous books and guides, web sites dedicated to live auctions of marbles only, and collector conventions. Additionally, many glass artisans produce marbles for the collectors' market only, with some selling for hundreds of dollars[citation needed].[10]

Manufacture

Glass marbles

Marbles are made using many techniques. They can be categorized into two general types: hand-made and machine-made.

Marbles were originally made by hand. Stone or ivory marbles can be fashioned by grinding. Clay, pottery, ceramic, or porcelain marbles can be made by rolling the material into a ball, and then letting dry, or firing, and then can be left natural, painted, or glazed. Clay marbles, also known as crock marbles or commies (common), are made of slightly porous clay, traditionally from local clay or leftover earthenware ('crockery'), rolled into balls, then glazed and fired at low heat, creating an opaque imperfect sphere that is frequently sold as the poor boy's 'old timey' marble. Glass marbles can be fashioned through the production of glass rods which are stacked together to form the desired pattern, cutting the rod into marble-sized pieces using marble scissors, and rounding the still-malleable glass.

One mechanical technique is dropping globules of molten glass into a groove made by two interlocking parallel screws. As the screws rotate, the marble travels along them, gradually being shaped into a sphere as it cools. Color is added to the main batch glass and/or to additional glass streams that are combined with the main stream in a variety of ways. For example, in the "cat's-eye" style, colored glass vanes are injected into a transparent main stream. Applying more expensive colored glass to the surface of cheaper transparent or white glass is also a common technique.

Manufacturing locations

There were numerous businesses that made marbles in Akron, Ohio.[11] One major marble manufacturing company is Marble King located in Paden City, West Virginia which was featured in the television shows "Made in America" and "Some Assembly Required". The largest manufacturer of playing marbles is Vacor de Mexico. The company makes 90 percent of the world’s marbles. Over 12 million little glass balls are produced each day.

Marbles in culture

Art:

  • "Slice o' Marble Pie," a Contemporary Art Glass Sculpture by Jody Fine.[12]

Video games:

  • iKeepsies is a game for the iPhone and iPod Touch published by Welcome Friend Productions in November 2009.
  • Play Marbles, an iPhone/iPod Touch marbles game published by Darkside Entertainment, developed by Eclipse Interactive, released in July 2009.
  • Marble Madness, an Atari game where players race each other to the finish line.
  • Marble Drop, a computer game where players place marbles in a complicated apparatus in an attempt to solve a puzzle.
  • Marble Blast Gold a 2003 'get to the finish' first person game for PC and Xbox; a sequel was released later for the Xbox 360, Marble Blast Ultra.
  • Oxyd a 1991 game for Atari ST, Amiga and Macintosh
  • Switchball a 2007 game for PC and Xbox 360.
  • The World Ends With You uses a marble-like system, called "Tin Pin Slammer", as the basis for several plot events.
  • Public radio host Jesse Thorn comments on his podcast Jordan, Jesse Go! in episode 54 entitled I Dream of Jordan at about 1:14 that the quality of a game having marbles in it is what he considers the Amiga standard. This is possibly a reference to the game Marble Madness.

Music:

Other games:

  • Ker-Plunk, a game for two to four players involving marbles.
  • Hungry Hungry Hippos, a game for 2 to 4 players involving marbles.
  • Chinese Checkers, often called "Marble Checkers", is a board game for 2 to 6 players using marbles as game pieces.
  • Bakugan Battle Brawlers, a game which uses magnetic spring loading marbles which open up to reveal creatures used to play the game.
  • B-Daman, a toy that fires marbles and can be played under several game rules.

Television:

  • He's a Bully, Charlie Brown has Charlie Brown playing marble champion and summer camp bully, Joe Agate, for marbles that Agate tricked out of another camper.

When someone becomes mentally unbalanced, it is said they have "lost their marbles".[13]

See also

References

  1. ^ Johnny Acton, Tania Adams, Matt Packer, 2006, Origin of Everyday Things Barnes and Noble, p. 148
  2. ^ "Dan Ackman, "No One Plays for Keeps Anymore"". The Wall Street Journal, June 25, 2009. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124588571634750403.html. 
  3. ^ a b c d "Losing your Marbles". BBC Inside Out programme. BBC. 9 June 2003. http://www.bbc.co.uk/insideout/south/series3/marbles_world_championship.shtml. Retrieved 13 January 2010. 
  4. ^ a b Collins 2007, p. 88.
  5. ^ Aitch, Iain (4 April 2009). "Event preview: British And World Marbles Championship, Tinsley Green". The Guardian. Guardian News and Media Ltd. http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture/2009/apr/04/british-world-marble-championship. Retrieved 13 January 2010. 
  6. ^ a b Sandy, Matt (7 April 2007). "Village rolls out a welcome for World Marbles Championships". The Times. Times Newspapers Ltd. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article1624160.ece. Retrieved 13 January 2010. 
  7. ^ a b "Sport: At Tinsley Green". TIME magazine. TIME Inc.. 17 April 1939. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,761077,00.html. Retrieved 13 January 2010. 
  8. ^ Pearson, Harry (26 April 2003). "Going under in the marble halls of Tinsley Green". The Guardian. Guardian News and Media Ltd. http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/2003/apr/26/comment.harrypearson. Retrieved 13 January 2010. 
  9. ^ Gwynne 1990, p. 172.
  10. ^ LandOfMarbles.com - Contemporary Art Marble Gallery
  11. ^ "A Brief History of the Birth of the Modern American Toy Industry". http://www.americantoymarbles.com/akronhist.htm. Retrieved 2009-01-21. 
  12. ^ LandOfMarbles.com - Slice o' Marble Pie
  13. ^ Martin, Gary (2009). "The Phrase Finder, Lose your marbles". The Phrase Finder. Gary Martin. http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/lose-your-marbles.html. Retrieved 2009-08-13. 

External links


1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

MARBLES, a children's game of great antiquity, wide distribution, and uncertain origin, played with small spheres of stone, glass, baked clay or other material, from one-third of an inch to two inches in diameter. The game was once popular with all classes. Tradition, both at Oxford and Cambridge, attests that the game was formerly prohibited among undergraduates on the steps of the Bodleian or the Senate House. There is a similar tradition at Westminster School that the boys were forbidden to play marbles in Westminster Hall on account of the complaints made by members of parliament and lawyers. An anonymous poem of the 17th century speaks of a boy about to leave Eton as " A dunce at syntax, but a dab at taw." Rogers, in The Pleasures of Memory, recalls how " On yon grey stone that fronts the chancel-door, Worn smooth by busy feet, now seen no more, Each eve we shot the marble through the ring." Defoe (1720) writes of the seer Duncan Campbell: " Marbles, which he used to call children's playing at bowls, yielded him mighty diversion; and he was so dexterous an artist at shooting that little alabaster globe from between the end of his forefinger and the knuckle of his thumb, that he seldom missed hitting plumb, as the boys call it, the marble he aimed at, though at the distance of two or three yards." The locus classicus on marbles in the 1 9th century is in the trial in Pickwick, where Serjeant Buzfuz pathetically says of Master Bardell that " his `alley tors ' and his ' commoneys ' are alike neglected; he forgets the long familiar cry of ' knuckle down,' and at tip-cheese, or odd and even, his hand is out." Many similar passages might be adduced to prove the former popularity of marbles with the young of all classes. In some rural parts of Sussex Good Friday was known as " marble-day " till late in the 10th century, since on that day both old and young, including many who would never have thought of playing marbles at other times, took part in the game. There was some traditional reason for regarding marbles as a Lenten sport - perhaps, as the Rev. W. D. Parish suggests, " to keep people from more boisterous and mischievous enjoyments." The origin of the game is concealed in the mists of antiquity. Marbles used by Egyptian and Roman children before the Christian era are to be seen in the British Museum. Probably some of the small stone spheres found among neolithic remains, which Evans (Ancient Stone Implements, 2nd ed., p. 420) admits to be too small for projectiles, are prehistoric marbles. It is commonly assumed that the game which the youthful Augustus, like other Roman children, played with nuts was a form of marbles, and that the Latin phrase of relinquere nuces, in the sense of putting away childish things, referred to this game. Strutt believed that nuts of the roundest sort were the original " marbles." The earliest unmistakable reference to marbles in literature seems to be in a French poem of the 12th century, quoted by Littre s.v. Bille. The marbles with which various games are nowadays played are small spheres of stone, glass or baked clay. In the 18th century they were mostly made from chips of marble (whence the name) or other stone, which were ground into a roughly spherical shape by attrition in a special iron mill. Nuremberg was then the centre of the trade in marbles, though some were made in Derbyshire, and indeed wherever there was a stonemason's yard to afford raw material. The " alley taw," as its name indicates, was made of alabaster. In the first decade of the 10th century English marbles were all imported from central Germany, and the alleys, or most valuable marbles, used for shooting, were mostly made of coloured glass, sold retail from ten a penny to a penny each. Coloured stone marbles and so-called china marbles - really of baked clay - were sold at prices varying from forty to a hundred a penny, though even the cheapest. of these were painted by hand with concentric rings. The well-made and highly valued alleys of earlier tin: es were no longer procurable, owing to the decline in popularity of the sport. In the United States, however,. much more expensive and accurately rounded marbles were still manufactured, the latest being of hollow steel.

There has never been any recognized authority on the game of marbles, and it is probable that, in the past as in the present, every parish and school and set of boys made its own rules. There are, however, three or four distinct games which are traditional, and may be found, with trifling variations, wherever the game is played. Strutt, writing at the end of the 18th century, describes these as follows: (1) " Taw, wherein a number of boys put each of them one or two marbles in a ring and shoot at them alternately with other marbles, and he who obtains the most of them by beating them out of the ring is the conqueror." The marbles placed in the ring - whence the game is often known as " ring-taw " - are usually of the cheaper kind known as " commoneys," "stoneys " oz " potteys," and the marble with which the player shoots is a more valuable one, known as an" alley, "or " alley taw," sometimes spelt " tor," as by Dickens. Usually it is necessary that the alley should emerge from the ring as well as drive out another marble; under other rules the ring is smaller, not more than a foot in diameter, and the player must be skilful enough to leave his alley inside it, whilst driving the object marble outside. (2) " Nine holes: which consists in bowling of marbles at a wooden bridge with nine arches." Each arch bears a number, and the owner of the bridge pays that number of marbles to the player who shoots through it, making his profit from the missing marbles, which he confiscates; or the game may simply be played so many up - usually 100. (3) " There is also another game of marbles where four, five or six holes, and sometimes more, are made in the ground at a distance from each other; and the business of every one of the players is to bowl a marble by a regular succession into all the holes, which he who completes in the fewest bowls obtains the victory." This primitive form of golf is played by Zulu adults with great enthusiasm, and is still popular among the car-drivers of Belfast. (4) " Boss out, or boss and span, also called hit and span, wherein one bowls a marble to any distance that he pleases, which serves as a mark for his antagonist to bowl at, whose business it is to hit the marble first bowled, or lay his own near enough to it for him to span the space between them and touch both marbles; in either case he wins, if not, his marble remains where it lay and becomes a mark for the first player, and so alternately until the game be won." In rural parts of England this was known as a " going-to-school game," because it helped the players along the road.

Mr F. W. Hackwood states that, in the middle of the 19th century, taverns in the Black Country had regular marble alleys, consisting of a cement bed 20 ft. long by 12 ft. wide and 18 in. from the ground, with a raised wooden rim to prevent the marbles from running off. Players knelt down to shoot, and had to " knuckle down " fairly - i.e. to place the knuckle of the shooting hand on the ground, so that the flip of the thumb was not aided by a jerk of the wrist. The game was usually ring-taw. But marbles is now obsolete in England as a game for adults (Old English Sports, London, 1907).

A writer in Notes and Queries (IX. ii. 314) thus describes the marbles used by English boys in the middle of the 19th century: " In ring-taw the player put only commoneys in the ring, and shot with the taws, which included stoneys, alleys and bloodalleys. Commoneys were unglazed; potteys glazed in the kiln. Stoneys were made from common pebbles such as were used for road-mending; alleys and blood-alleys out of marble. The bloodalleys were highly prized, and were called by this name because of the spots or streaks of red in them. In Derbyshire, where large numbers were made, they had relative values. The stoney was worth three commoneys or two potteys. An alley was worth six commoneys or four potteys. Blood-alleys were worth more, according to the depth and arrangement of colour - from twelve to fifty commoneys and stoneys in proportion." " A taw with a history was prized above rubies," another correspondent observes (IX. ii. 76). " All the best-made marbles were taws, and no commoneys or potteys were used for shooting with, either in ring-taw or the various hole-games." In Belfast, 1854-1858, the marble season extended from Easter to June, when the ground was usually dry and hard. The marbles were stoneys, of composition painted; crockeries, of slightly glazed stone-ware, dark brown and yellow; clayeys, of red brick clay baked in the fire; marbles, of white marble; china alleys, with white glaze and painted rings; and glass marbles. The two chief games were ring-taw and hole and taw; in the latter three holes were made in a line, 6 ft. to 12 ft. apart, and the player had to go three times up and down according to somewhat elaborate rules (Notes and Queries, IX. iii. 65). The stoneys and crockeries were sold at twenty a penny; the clayeys were cheaper and were not used as stakes; the marbles proper and china alleys, used as taws for shooting, cost a halfpenny and a farthing respectively. In other parts of the country the phraseology of marbles affords some interesting problems for the philologist. We hear of " alleys, barios, poppos and stoneys "; of " marididdles," home-made marbles of rolled and baked clay; in Scotland of " bools, whinnies, glassies, jauries "; of " Dutch alleys," and so forth. " Dubs, trebs and fobs," stand for twos, threes and fours. To be " mucked " is to lose all one's " mivvies " or marbles. When the taw stayed in the ring it was a " chuck." " Phobbo slips " was a phrase used to forbid the correction of an error.

The fullest account of the various games of marbles played by English children is to be found in Mrs Gomme's Traditional Games of England, Scotland and Ireland (London, 1898), under the headings Boss-out, Bridgeboard, Bun-hole, Cob, Ho-go, Holy Bang, Hundreds, Lag, Long-Tawl, Marbles, Nine-Holes, Ring-taw, Three-Holes. Other games are known as Plum-pudding, or Picking the Plums, in which one shoots at marbles in a row; Pyramids, in which the marbles are arranged in a pyramid; Bounce About, Bounce Eye, Conqueror, Die Shot, Fortifications, Handers, Increase Pound, Knock Out, Rising Taw, Spanners, Tip-shears; Strutt's Sports and Pastimes, ed. J. C. Cox (London, 1902). Much information will also be found in Notes and Queries, passim - especially the 9th series. For marbles in France see Larousse, s.v. Billes. See also SOLITAIRE. (W. E. G. F.)


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