The Christensen Marbleworks (1903-1922) in Akron, Ohio is America’s
oldest still standing toy factory.
HELP SAVE AMERICA’S OLDEST TOY FACTORY
National Historic Landmark Considerations for Application
The company compound of The M.F. Christensen & Son
Company (1903-1922) is the oldest still- standing toy company in the USA. It
was “the first and original glass toy marble factory in America.” These
marbles created an entire industry and are today the most popular toy in the
world. The building stands in the birthplace of the modern toy industry. It
was one of 32 local toy marble companies and one of over 150 local toy
companies. The five buildings making up the compound are still in near
The Company Compound of The M.F. Christensen & Son Company
Building No. 1. The glass factory of the M.F. Christensen &
Building No. 2. The sorting, packaging and office for the
Building No. 3. Christensen’s 1st home built in 1886, later
home of his daughter Jesse
Building No. 4. Christensen brick home, built in 1910
Building No. 5. Home Christensen built for his son Charles
Martin Frederick Christensen
Born: March 26, 1849, Copenhagen, Denmark
/ Died: October 10, 1915, Akron, Ohio
Patented 1st practical steel ball bearing machine in 1899,
USP No.632,335 and 632,335
Discovered and patented the scientific principles of
Patented 1st machine to manufacture glass balls (tmarbles)
in 1905, USP No. 802,495
Acknowledged in court to have invented the modern glass
marble machine, in use from
1915 to the present – US Circuit Court of Appeals for the
Founder, President and majority stockholder for The M.F.
Christensen & Son Company, of Akron, Ohio (1903-1922)
Christensen’s marbles were sold on six of the world’s
seven continents and dominated the toy industry from the moment of their
appearance in the market in 1903 until 1917 when they stopped manufacturing.
His marbles put out of business all American glass marble shops and almost
wiped out glass marble production in Germany. He later licensed his 1905
patent for glass marbles to the German’s thereby saving their 60 year old
industry and they continued their production until 1936.
The method of manufacturing glass marbles that
Christensen invented in 1910 is still in use today. Outside of hand-made
‘art spheres’ Christensen’s invention is the only method used to make
marbles, for play, for floral and decorative uses and for industrial
The games of marbles were the most popular children’s
game in the history of the USA for 300 years. While the games began a
decline in the period between the 1960s and 1970s and are no longer widely
popular in the USA today; glass toy marbles are the still most popular toy
and game in the world. No toy comes close to the popularity of marbles in
the world market.
Akron, Ohio was the birthplace of the modern toy industry
and children’s product market.
The first mass-produced toy was made by Samuel C. Dyke in
1884 at his Akron Toy Company (later incorporated as The American Marble &
Toy Manufacturing Company,) now the site of Lock 3 Park in Akron, Ohio.
There were 32 toy marble companies located in the greater
Akron area between 1884 and 1951.
The mass-production of toys changed the lives of all
children world-wide. The price of mass-produced toys dropped so low that for
the first time in human history almost all children could afford a toy. For
a penny, a child could buy a handful of Dyke’s American Agates
These Akron area marble factories proved so successful,
other Akronites looking for new uses for rubber witness the creation of the
children’s product market and turned out the 1st mass-produced balloons,
rubber balls, rubber dollies, rubber duckies and rubber baby buggy bumpers.
Others made bicycles, tricycles, peddle cars, anything that used a rubber
tire. A wide rang of other toys were made here too, from cast iron and tin
toys to tops and children’s books. By 1929 there were over 120 toy companies
in the greater Akron area.
Local toy company owners helped form the Toy
Manufacturers Association of America, served on their board of directors and
were presidents of the organization for many years.
Other local toy making inventions, like Mathew Lang’s
injection molding of clay marbles in 1890s and Derrick Rempel’s blow molding
from the 1940s, are still exceptionally valuable and widely used
manufacturing techniques in the rubber and plastic industries world-wide.
There are still major toy companies operating in the
greater Akron area, like Little Tykes, Step Two, Maple City Rubber, National
Latex, Eagle Rubber, Balloon Accessories, Inc, etc.