AKRO AGATE CO. (1910-1951)
The Akro Agate Company, perhaps the best known of the marble manufacturers and certainly the most prolific during most of their career, was formed in 1910 in Akron, Ohio, by George T. Rankin and Gilbert C. Marsh. They used as their trademark, which was registered the following year, a crow holding marbles in its feet and beak and flying through a capital "A." For the first three years of the company's existence they simply bought and repackaged marbles made by M.F. Christensen and Son Company. In fact, their shop, first located in the attic of the Wagner-Marsh Shoe Store at 72 S. Main Street and moved in 1912 to E. Exchange Street, was not too far away from the Christensen factory.
Meanwhile, M.F. Christensen's bookkeeper, Horace C. Hill, was embezzling money from his employer. Hill left the company in 1913 and joined up with Rankin and Marsh. In 1914, Hill moved the company to Clarksburg, West Virginia. Hill had applied for a patent on a marble-making machine in 1912 but it was at first rejected for being to similar to Martin Christensen's machine; perhaps Hill had stolen more than money from his employer. In 1915, a year following Akro Agate's relocation, and the same year in which Hill submitted a slightly different patent which was approved by the patent office (Patent #1164718), M.F. Christensen presented the courts with evidence of Hill's embezzlement. Hill paid back the $4,000 he had stolen, and died on March 31, 1916, not too long after the death of Martin Christensen.
Akro Agate began marble production late in 1914. In 1919, the company hired John F. Early, who as General Superintendent, expanded Akro's operations and made major improvements to Hill's machines. A major enhancement was made in 1926 which allowed for more precision in the rounding of marbles (Patent #1761623). This also completely did away with having to hand-gather the glass prior to placing it in the marble-shaping machinery. A second improvement a couple years later (Patent #1880916) more than doubled the production capacity of Akro's machines. The patent for this was approved in 1932, but by this time Early had left Akro Agate (on May 1, 1930, to be exact).
During the 1920s Akro Agate grew into the leading manufacturer of marbles thanks in large part to Early's innovations. Also, Arnold Fiedler, who later supplied Christensen Agate with its unique glass colors, worked for Akro Agate until 1926 and brought to the company his skills in glass mixing, which lent to Akro's marbles beautiful and vibrant eye appeal.
The 1930s saw some troubles for Akro Agate, as some of their key employees resigned at the beginning of the decade. Some of these went on the form the Master Marble Company. Sales of marbles declined everywhere toward the latter years of the decade and slowed even more in the subsequent decade. Akro began producing other glass objects during this period, including ashtrays, powder jars, jardinieres, vases, decorative flower pots, candlesticks, bowls, dishes, and more. These met with moderate success. Their line of colorful children's dishes did not sell well at first, but with the onset of America's involvement in World War II and the concomitant halt of imported Japanese toys they soon became more popular. However, this diversification did not pull Akro Agate from its decline, and by 1951 it closed down for good.
The Akro Agate factory site as it exists today covers some two acres. Late in 1997 and into early 1998 one of the buildings was demolished, revealing large numbers of discarded marbles beneath the foundation. Many experimental types, which were rejected by the company, were discovered due to this incident. This find was termed the "Old Annex" site. Toward the end of 1998 an additional discovery was made in the drainage system used by the factory. Dubbed the "French Drain" site, it yielded multitudes of marbles, again many of them experimental varieties that did not "make the grade." Several new oxblood marble types have entered the market as a consequence of the frantic digging that took place here. Apparently, digging at the site continues to this day, though it is illegal to do so.