The Akro Agate Company was started by Dr. George T. Rankin, Gilbert C. Marsh, (President of “Wagner-Marsh Shoe Store”), and Horace C. Hill, (Former employee of “Navarre Marbles”).  The story was best told by Gilbert Marsh when it appeared in the “Akro Beacon Journal”.

       “Dr. George T. Rankin and I conceived the idea of making marbles and packing them in boxes to sell at my shoe store on Main Street.  We talked it over together, and I said “Let's get it down on paper.”  We built our own marble machinery and had it installed upstairs over my shoe store on Main Street in Akron.  Sometimes we packed marbles until one or two o'clock in the morning.  We sold 25 “Glassies” for fifty cents a package in graduated sizes.  Later our marble business done so well we moved into a machine shop on East Exchange Street. On March 23, 1911, we applied for the “Akro Agate” trademark and in August of the same year it was registered."

      After a couple of years showing success, they decided to purchase a larger building and expand their operation, and in late 1914 the company moved to Clarksburg, WV.

      The Clarksburg site was chosen for several reasons. Most important was the abundance and availability of natural gas and sand.  Both are very important in the glass making industry.  At this early stage, Marsh, Rankin, and Hill, weren't able to build a plant, but they found an existing plant that was vacated.  The building formerly housed the “National Aluminum Company”.  It was an ideal site, since it was located beside railroad tracks, with a side rail to the building for loading.  At this time they rented the building and began operation.  “Akro Agate” first appeared in the Clarksburg City Directory in 1915, as manufactures of toy marbles, caster balls, and glass balls for lithographers use.

      The Move to Clarksburg brought John M. Rawley into the partnership and in 1916, with the death of Hill, George A. Pflueger joined the partnership.

      Much of the success of Akro Agate can be attributed to their ability to capitalize on automation and the changing world markets between the two world wars.  The original Hill patent enabled them to mass produce glass marbles cheap enough to corner the world market.

      In 1925 two additional patents enabled Akro Agate to develop into a state of the art machine glass shop.  The “Hartford Empire Feeder” system allowed a measured charge of glass to be delivered to the mold at an even pressure.  The “Freese” patent allowed a main tank of clear glass to be colored in the feeder system from one or more of four smaller tanks each containing a different color of glass.

      The marble machines were also constantly refined.  The “John Early” patent of 1932 created the duplex marble machine which doubled the capacity.  Variations of this idea are in production even today.  Eventually another set of rollers were added so the flow could be speeded up and a sorting device was incorporated under the machines.

      Up to this point Akro Agate was doing well but serious competition developed when they lost two major patent suits.  The first to Peltier Marbles and the second to Master Marbles.  After this, competition began to cut into Akro's share of the market.  At this point they decided to produce other items along with marbles.  One of the first items was a large heavy 5" square ashtray.  During the early 1930's they experimented making ashtrays and small containers, such as cold cream jars.  In 1936, "The Westite" plant in Weston, WV, was destroyed by fire.  Akro Agate acquired all the molds, which included flower pots, planters, vases, etc. from the Garden Line products Westite produced.  Towards the end of the 1930's Akro Agate tried the Children's Dishes, but at that time with little success.  Then in the 1940's they designed two powder jars, a Scotty Dog and a Colonial Lady which were very popular.  After this a wide variety of powder jars were made but none were as successful as the Lady and Scotty.

       Then came the Second World War and since cheap Japanese imports were cut off, Akro Agate’s Children's Dishes became a great success.  Perhaps their best years were during the war.  They enjoyed great success until 1946, which at that time cheap plastics and metal toy dishes became cheaper to produce than glass.  During the next three years Akro Agate's sales plunged dramatically.  By 1949 they decided to close and stop production.  They continued to sell remaining stock, but on April 24, 1951, Akro Agate had a final auction sale and sold everything.  

 One final note, Akro Agate was very aggressive in marketing new items and we feel that is why there are so many rare pieces.




The above photos and text are used courtesy of Roger and Claudia Hardy & "The Akro Agate Collector's Website".

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