While many glass collectors are familiar with the Akro Agate name, the company actually began in 1910 by making marbles. They were packaged in boxes and marketed at the Wagner-Marsh Shoe Store in Akron, Ohio, a shop operated by Gilbert C. Marsh, one of the company’s founders.
Marsh partnered with Dr. George T. Rankin and Horace C. Hill, a former employee of Navarre Marbles, to combine their working capital and expertise. The team built their own equipment for producing machine-made marbles and installed it above Marsh’s shoe store. “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,” Marsh revealed in an interview recounted on AkroAgate.com.
Akro Agate trademarked its name in 1911. After continued success, the company moved to Clarksburg, W.Va. in 1914 where materials required by glassmakers, primarily sand and natural gas, were abundant. They were listed in the Clarksburg City Directory as manufacturers of toy marbles, caster balls, and glass balls used by lithographers in 1915, as noted on AkroAgate.com.
Akro Agate’s Marbles
The company continued to refine its manufacturing processes and improve efficiency into the 1920s becoming world leaders in glass marble production and sales at that time. They manufactured many types of marbles over several decades now sought by collectors such as corkscrews, oxbloods, and sparklers along with a number of others including the “glassies” that started the business.
Akro, as marble collectors often reference the company, is also known for producing the vast majority of vintage “slags”, a type of opaque glass marble with a swirled appearance. The varied colors in slag marbles are similar to later pieces of the company’s glassware which took varied shapes moving into the 1930s and ‘40s.
Glass Beyond Marbles
As competition in the marble business heated up with Peltier Marbles and Master Marbles winning patent suits against the company, Akro Agate ventured into making other types of glass. By the early 1930s they worked a number of ashtrays into their production lines and began making other small containers such as cold cream jars.
When Westite, a glass company in nearby Weston, W.Va., closed due to a fire in 1936, Akro Agate purchased the company’s “Garden Line” molds. These included distinctive flower pots, planters and vases, and some were sold with fitted metal fixtures so they could be easily used as wall décor. Later in the 1930s, a limited number of children’s dishes were produced without much success.
It wasn’t until the 1940s that Akro Agate hit its stride marketing its popular Scotty Dog and Colonial Lady powder jars. In fact, during the World War II era when inexpensive imported goods were no longer available to American consumers, the company’s glass children’s dishes suddenly became a hot commodity and sold briskly until 1946 when global post-war trade resumed.
With sales plummeting in the years immediately following World War II, Akro Agate ceased production in 1949. The company sold its remaining inventory through 1951, and then officially closed its doors.
Collectors today recognize many of Akro’s pieces made of slag glass, the same material used in their slag marbles. This heavy, opaque glass has either white or cream swirls throughout. Slag glass was also produced by companies such as Imperial, Westmoreland and Fenton.
Other Akro pieces, including children’s dishes, were made of glass in colors similar to those used in the Depression-era pieces such as cobalt blue or teal green. Akro’s children’s dishes, when not marked, are usually distinguished by their shapes which have an Art Deco influence with geometric lines and stacked designs.
The Company’s Crow or “Kro” Logo
One of the pitfalls with the Akro mark is that it is very often poorly molded into the glass making it hard to decipher. For this reason it is often mistaken as an eagle or other type of bird. In actuality, the Akro Agate logo represents a crow flying through the letter “A” with marbles held in its talons and beak. The symbolism refers to the tagline used by the company on its marble packaging: “Shoot Straight as a Kro Flies.”
This mark is found on glassware pieces and children’s dishes rather than marbles. The marbles were only marked on the boxes, although reference guides are available to help collectors and sellers identify Akro’s marble styles and colors.
In addition to bearing the crow logo, most other glass pieces are also marked indicating they were made in the U.S.A. in raised letters and sometimes include a mold number. Early pieces produced in the 1930s when the company first began experimenting beyond marble production can be unmarked.