Front page, Winston-Salem Journal, May 28, 1926. Jess Roy Pinkston defeats Wilbur Crews at the Central School playground in the finals of the Journal’s annual marbles tournament.


At the beginning of the final match, the Journal shot the finalists squaring off…in the background are the other contestants who have already been eliminated. Contrary to popular belief, boys were not the only ones who knew the difference between an aggie, an immie, an alley and a taw. Almost half the contestants were girls, and some of them were no doubt quite willing to play for keepsies, as in “winner keeps, loser weeps”…how the latter felt may be the origin of the term “losing ones marbles”.



“Aggies” were the standard…hand made from agate in Germany throughout the 19th century. “Immies” were common glass marbles made to imitate the look of aggies. Even lower on the totem pole were “commies”, made of clay. By 1840, one manufacturer in Ohio was turning out 100,000 commies a day.


“Alleys” were made of alabaster and for a time were considered the best marbles.

“Taws” were shooters, often larger than the other marbles. By the late 19th century, many of them were “steelies”, steel ball bearings.


Most kids outgrew marbles by their mid-teens, but some never did.