In reading through my old blogs I came across the following true story I reported some years ago. The tale aroused my curiosity as to what marbles might have looked like during the Regency era. The search led me down allies (hah!) that I never dreamed existed. There is a whole world of marble collectors out there—many on Facebook. I discovered a mania for marbles.
Clay Marbles from the 1800s
Regency and Victorian era marbles:
Antique glass marbles (as opposed to clay marbles) were first made in Germany which was known for its glass toys. Marbles were created by a glass blower heating up a transparent glass rod, clear or colored, and attaching thin strips of opaque colored glass. The glass stick would be fired and pulled into a single cane, which while still hot would then be twisted. The glass blower would quickly cut the cane into marbles using “marble scissors,” which had a metal cup that formed the glass into a ball. Antique marbles from this era can be identified by a small mark, formed when the marble was cut from the cane.Marble scissors
I like to imagine Jane Austen might have gathered her skirts and sat on the parlor floor to meet one of her brothers’ challenges to a game of “Conqueror” or “Hundreds.” She would win as many times as she lost, laughing as they played in front of the fireplace on a cold winter’s day. The perfect indoor competition. Many lovely glass designs of that era have particularly beautiful names like “Vitro Trilite” and “Latticinio Core Swirls.”
Skipping along, let us get on with my very true story of a practical application for those little round gems:
Marbles in the Medicine Chest
My second ex-husband or “Double-X” came equipped with a best friend, Andrew. They were two peas in a pod. Frick & Frack. Joined at the hip. Andrew (Frack) owned a chain of jewelry stores but never spent any time there. He and Double-X (Frick) would water-ski eighteen hours a day using my house as a mini Club Med.
Double-X and I had been married less than a year. I was still sensitive to his tender male ego and worried about making him feel less than manly by forcing him to live in my house on the bay. (Poor fellow!) His friends descended in packs on Friday and left on Sunday night. Reluctantly, I welcomed the gypsy troop of wandering water-skiers, but there was always something slightly off about Andrew. At first I couldn’t put my finger on it.
The Plot Thickens
Sipping iced tea after a particularly grueling day of sun and fun, Andrew, the jewelry store mogul, announced he had become an interior house painter. He placed ads, ordered business cards, and even bought himself a few painters’ jumpsuits for his scrawny little body. Surprisingly he soon had customers. I was intrigued with his sudden interest in Sherwin-Williams.
It was the Sunday before Christmas. Double X, Andrew, and the gypsies were getting ready to water-ski. I sat next to Andrew on my dock. “Why did you start painting houses?” I asked. The skinny little toad looked me right in the eye and said, “People leave me alone in their homes all day while I paint. I like going through their drawers and closets. I find the most interesting things.”
I shuddered. Andrew made my skin crawl.
Now his new profession made sense. It always rankled me whenever Andrew used the potty at my house, as he would always wander into the master bathroom. I’d gently suggest he use the guest bath or the powder room. It soon became a contest between us. He’d stand as if heading for the bathroom, and I’d dash to body-block my bedroom door.
Double-X looked like a storm cloud had settled on his face when I told him what I’d learned about Andrew’s Paint & Snoop business. “Andrew’s just joking. He paints walls because he likes the exercise,” Double X said. I could see this chat was not going to lead to any admission.
I took a firm stance. “I don’t want Andrew to use our master bedroom bath. He’s snooping in my private girl stuff. He’s looking in our medicine chest.”
Double-X puffed up to twice his size. “Andrew would never snoop. He would never look in our medicine chest. You’re paranoid,” he said.
The next Saturday while Andrew and Double-X were out and about setting up for a water-ski event to be held at the house, I swung into action. I purchased two bags of glass marbles…kids’ marbles. I cleared out the medicine chest, and oh so carefully filled one shelf with both bags of marbles. Shelving marbles is very challenging work. The technique takes great eye-hand coordination, a skill I lack. It took me two hours of rabid concentration along with an invention made of cardboard and two teaspoons. After countless tries, fueled by my desire to prove Andrew was snooping, I finally loaded the medicine chest with both bags of marbles.
I placed a baby monitor on the bathroom counter behind a decorative plant. The speaker end of the monitor sat on a patio coffee table in the middle of the gypsies’ drinks and snacks. No one noticed it as they sat and sipped, après-ski.
The time came for Andrew to prowl. He got up and headed to my master bedroom. I faked a blocking move so he wouldn’t get suspicious, but let him gain access to my bathroom.
Turning up the volume on the baby monitor receiver, I sat down with the guests, grinning like the Cheshire Cat. The gypsies’ attention was alerted by the sound of piddle, then a flush. They looked high, they looked low, and they looked at their drinks. They scratched their heads. Double-X frowned.
Just as all eyes zeroed in on the baby monitor speaker, one hundred glass marbles hit the granite bathroom counter with a confirming clatter.
I could not contain my smug grin. Never underestimate a Woman Sleuth.
With love & laughter!