Many will remember going to school with your bag of marbles so you could join a game at recess. Someone drew a large circle on the playground, participants knuckled down, and the game began. Each player had their own special shooter marble which was usually their largest marble. Mine had a light blue swirl.
The goal was to shoot a marble outside the circle. You then kept that marble for the rest of the game. Then students either played “for fair” in which marbles were all returned to their owner or “for keeps” – no explanation needed.
Someone had to make those special marbles and this is their story. It all began in the 1930s when Berry Pink was selling marbles manufactured by Peltier Glass. By the 1940s, Pink was selling more marbles than Sellers Peltier could produce so they decided to combine their talents of manufacturing and salesmanship in a new company.
Berry Pink gave away marbles as he traveled around the country hosting marble tournaments. He became known as the “The Marble King” to the children along the way. When the company was founded in 1949, Marble King seemed a fitting name for this new organization.
At that time the company was located in St. Mary’s, West Virginia. But in 1958, a fire destroyed the factory and the manager, Roger Howdyshell moved the plant to Paden City where it remains today.
Howdyshell left his mark on the marble industry in several ways. He led Marble King to the top of marble manufactures when he designed the first American made Cat’s Eye marbles. In 1983, Roger Howdyshell purchased Marble King and dedicated his life to making it a success. While Roger died in 1991, the Howdyshell family still operates Marble King and carries on that fine tradition set by Roger.
Today, Beri Fox presides over Marble King, the only factory in the United States that manufactures marbles. She was named for Berry Pink and worked at Marble King with her mom and dad all of her life. On summer vacations from college, Beri worked in the family business.
At that time, most marbles were used in games and toys for companies like Mattel and Ideal. But when video games became popular, Marble King had to make the transition to other uses for their beautiful glass gems. Now, marbles are being used in floral designs, jewelry, architecture, and industrial applications.
Beri explained, “You can be a broken piece of glass and we can transition you into something new again.” 90% of their marbles are made from cullet glass, which is scrap glass melted down for reuse from several area glass companies. They can make a million marbles a day when in full production.
This is a frequent stop for tour buses and school groups as they come to learn the history of marbles and have fun along the way. The gift shop includes a 12-foot ring like the one that is used at the National Marbles Tournament in Wildwood, New Jersey. Marble King has been a proud tournament sponsor since 1968. Winners are presented with a $2,000 scholarship for post-secondary education. This year, a virtual tournament was held due to the coronavirus; next year, Marble King will sponsor the West Virginia Marble Festival in Paden City.
Kids have a chance to play Ringer in the gift shop. This is one of the traditional marble games where 13 marbles are placed in an X inside a circle. The challenge is to see who can be the first one to knock out seven marbles. “The opportunity to work in an industry that involves kids is what is truly important,” stated Beri. She always enjoys a chance to play Ringer with the kids when they stop by.
Most people think of marbles being used in toys and games. However, there are many other uses for marbles. Some are used as decorations for weddings, jewelry, fish tanks, and infiltration systems. When you shake a can of spray paint, that rattle you hear is an industrial use of a marble. Special marbles are even used in making wine and beer. They have even been used by NASA for testing in their space balloons. The list of uses is amazing.
Their marbles have even made the movies! “Goonies”, “Hook”, and “Home Alone” have featured Marble King marbles as props. Robin Williams used Marble King marbles when he recaptured his youth as Peter Pan.
Marble King marbles are made using recycled glass in the U.S.A. seven days a week, three hundred sixty-five days a year. Marbles have been shipped all over the world to over 17 countries, including Australia, Germany, France, United Kingdom, and Canada. In 2000, Marble King won the Governor’s Award for Excellent in Exporting.
In Moundsville, West Virginia at the Grave Creek Mound Archaeological Complex an entire wall displays their beauty in a fantastic, colorful design. Here 47,523 marbles replicate the logo of Marble King.
Altar’d State stores use a clear glass panel filled with Marble King marbles as the backdrop in each store. Lighted from behind, this creates a very beautiful and glowing welcome.
Visit their interactive museum and gift shop in Paden City to discover why Marble King is known for quality, tradition, and history all over the world. It’s extra special because today they are the only marble company still producing Made in America marbles.
After 70 years in business, Marble King marbles have earned the right to be called the world’s best-known, and best-loved marbles.
Marble King is located in Paden City, WV. From Marietta take US-2 North and from Wheeling take US -2 South. Turn on Park Street and then 1st Avenue. The Gift Shop will be at 401 S 1st Avenue.