Artefact of the Week Series: Grab Your Marbles, Let's Play Capture!
Marbles have been around for thousands of years, but the marbles we know and love today started being produced in Germany in the mid 1800’s. A glassmaker in the town of Lausche, Germany invented a device called the marbleschere, or marble scissors that made forming the round, glass marbles much easier, and they began to be produced a lot more frequently. These glass marbles became very popular, and most of the marbles produced from the mid 19th century to the early 20th century came from Germany, becoming a major export to North America.
The largest marble that we have excavated is a handcrafted, cane-cut glass marble. This style is known a Latticinio Core Swirl, meaning that the core is lattice shaped and typically has coloured strands shaped around the core. The coloured swirls on this marble are red, white, and blue. This colour combination became popular in certain types of cane-cut marbles around 1876 to celebrate the American Centennial. The other marbles in the photograph were likely produced in the 20th century, when the production of marbles became more mass produced with help of machines.
A popular game to play with marbles since the 19th century is “Capture”, where all the player’s marbles are placed in a circle that has been made with chalk, string, or simply drawn in the dirt. The players then each pick a “shooter” marble, also known as “taws”, to shoot into the circle with the goal to knock as many marbles out as they can. The players get to keep any marbles that they manage to knock out the circle, increasing their prized marble collection
During the 20th century, families began occupying Anse à Bertrand seasonally as opposed to the negociants, or merchants, who had owned and occupied the graves in the 19th century. While there was plenty of work to be done in the fishing community for both old and young, the existence of these marbles on site shows that the people of Anse à Bertrand had established a more settled way of life with a little time for play after a hard day’s work.