Thursday, August 7, 2014


I don't know about you but I loved marbles and playing marbles when I was a kid. There was a time when I lost most of my marbles, but I practiced and practiced until I ended up with a large amount of marbles that I'd won from other children.

Below is an excerpt from 1834 The Book of Sports.

The best marbles are imported from Holland, where, as I have been informed, they are manufactured, by grinding fragments of alabaster and of other stones, in an iron mill of a peculiar construction. In this mill there are several partitions furnished with rasps, which turn with great velocity, by means of a stream of water; and thus having rounded the stones, project them out of different holes for which their size may adapt them. Thus manufactured they are sent to America and other countries. There are as you know, inferior kinds of marbles, which are of home manufacture, and consist of baked clay, or vitrified earth. The marbles made of pink marble, with dark red veins, 'blood allies,' are preferred to all others.
One of the most common games at marbles is that of knock-out. Two or more may play at this game. He who begins, throws a marble gently against a wall, so that it rebounds to a distance not exceeding a yard; a second player throws another marble against the wall, endeavoring to make it rebound, so as to strike or come within a span of the first; if he can do neither, the first player takes up his own marble, and, in turn, strives to snop or span that of the second. The marble that is thus snopped or spanned, is won, and the winner begins again. Where only two play, it is best to knock out two or three marbles each, alternately, before they begin to use those on the ground. In this case, a player may win his own marbles, as they are common stock when down, and take up which he pleases, to play with. Sometimes instead of throwing the marbles against a wall, the players shoot them along the ground. The winner is he who shoots his marble within a span of the other's. This game is called ' spans and snops.'
The game of ring-taw used to be a very popular sport some years ago. It is played in the following manner. A circle is drawn, on which each player puts as many marbles as may be agreed on. A line, called the offing, is then drawn at some distance, from which each in turn shoots at the ring. Shooting a marble out of the ring, entitles the shooter to go on again, and thus the ring may be sometimes cleared by a good player, before his companion or companions have a chance. After the first fire, the players return no more to the offing, but shoot, when their turn comes, from the place where their marbles rested on the last occasion. Every marble struck out of the ring, is won by the striking party; but if the taw, or marble, at any time remain in the ring, the player is out.
In the game of arch-board or nine-holes, the marbles are bowled at a board set upright, resembling a bridge, with nine small arches, all of them numbered; if the marble strike against the sides of the arches, it becomes the property of the boy to whom the board belongs; but, if it go through any one of them, the bowler claims a number equal to the number upon the arch it passed through.
Sometimes holes are dug in the ground, into which the players try to drive their marbles. Sometimes a little pyramid of marbles is erected within a small circle, and the boy who shoots at it, has as many as he can drive out of the circle. One marble is given, for each time of shooting, to the owner of the pyramid. Those games at marbles which depend entirely upon chance, I hope are beneath your notice.

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