Here, let me show you how ... " Michael Cohill, manager of the American Toy Marble Museum in Akron, kneels down inside a carpeted ring littered with white and black marbles.He
expertly holds a marble between his
fingers and shoots it with lightning speed and precision.
is passionate about marbles.The artist and toy inventor is on a mission to preserve the history of marbles and toy-making in Akron and Ohio, and to revive the once highly competitive and popular sport of marbles.Cohill, who was born in Denver and spent the first seven years of his life in Mexico City as the son of a Firestone Tire and Rubber Co. executive, hopes they'll once again roll across America.He's
counting on the museum, located in downtown Akron's Lock 3 Park, and activities that include The Akron District Marbles Tournament to inspire people to "play for keeps."
"The Akron District Marbles Tournament began in 1923 and continued ... until World War II, when [it] was canceled.After the war, the VFW revived the tournament and kept it going until the early 1960s.I revived The Akron District Marbles Tournament in 1990," says Cohill
Cohill's reputation as "Akron's Marble Man" might have been fate.After attending art school in California, he
moved to Akron to be near family.He
opened a studio where he
could concentrate on his
artwork.It happened to be the site of an old marble works, and Cohill
began researching Akron's contribution to the toy marbles industry.
Today, the majority of marbles comprising the museum was collected during excavations on former marble factory sites in Akron or purchased.
is passionate about toy marbles.
and museum staff members were given permission to dig on site, and their finest discoveries are now on display.
has taught hundreds of schoolchildren to play marbles.He
wife, Sara, give a $1,000 college scholarship to tournament winners, one boy and one girl.Four awards have been given so far.He
never passes up the opportunity to talk aggies, pontils (a dimple left on a hand-made marble) or submarines (an interior design mistake that increases the value of a collectible marble).
"Look at this!I just got this one yesterday.It's beautiful.If it were in perfect condition, it would be worth $2,000 or $3,000," Cohill
exclaims, as he
shows museum visitors a vintage marble with a rare pink band of color.
For visitors who can't leave without a souvenir, the museum sells marble jewelry made by Cohill
's wife, small bags of you-pick-'em marbles for $5 or $10, and stunning marbles that Cohill makes in limited amounts for $6 each.
"The stone marbles I make from [recycled] marble are made using an extremely old grinding technique, similar to one used in Pharaohic Egypt to make limestone marbles.It is a very dirty and dusty process, but does not involve heat or use of a mold," says Cohill
."To make our hand-made glass marbles, we reproduced a marble-making hand tool patented in Akron in 1890.We make our own glass using actual glass formulas used in the 1890s to 1910s in Akron to make marbles.The sand and color pigments are heated to 2,100 degrees for 24 hours in order to turn the materials into molten glass."Cohill
also sells marbles made by Jabo
, a marble manufacturer with a factory in Reno, Ohio, "the only manufacturer of traditional American playing marbles left in the United States," according to Cohill
.Sales help support the museum's operation.
"Akron, Ohio, really was the marble manufacturing center of the world from 1884 to 1951," says Cohill