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Losing My Marbles

by Lynne Belluscio

   In my ongoing research about games for the new exhibit at LeRoy House, I think I’m losing my marbles! If I thought last year’s research about porcelain insulators was a challenge, it pales in comparison to identifying marbles. But I’ve learned a lot and hope sometime this summer you stop by LeRoy House to take a look at the exhibit.

   I assumed that marbles were popular in the early 1800s, when Thomas and Augustus LeRoy were growing up. But marbles weren’t common. In fact they were pretty scarce. The marbles that are described in the “Boy’s Own Book” written in 1829 mention “Dutch” or variegated clay marbles. There were yellow “stone” marbles with circles of black or brown. These were made of limestone or agate. The best marbles were called “taws” and were usually larger than the regular marbles.  Taws were described as pink marble with dark veins.  They were called “Blood Allies. “ The word Allie was a reference to a stone known as alabaster.

   The LeRoy boys probably had clay “Dutch” marbles and a few taws of stone. They might have had some “china” marbles that were made of hard white clay, instead of the soft red clay. Some of the china marbles were decorated with lines.  Some of the soft red clay marbles were glazed.  Today they are called “Bennies” because the glaze looks like the glaze of the Bennington Pottery in Vermont. But none of these were glass marbles. From what I’ve read, there were some glass marbles, but they would have been hand made and probably so expensive that not many kids would have ever seen one.  READ MORE


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