The Akro Agate Company
1911 – 1914
1914 – 1951
Agate Company was founded in
At some point M. F. Christensen’s accountant Horace Hill started to supply Akro with marbles in an illicit manner – Akro continued to sell M. F. Christensen marbles but after a point no sales to Akro were reflected in the M. F. Christensen record books. Hill practiced similar creative bookkeeping with other companies. Hill’s misdeeds were uncovered. He was allowed to make restitution and was forgiven. Apparently Martin Christensen’s trust was so great in him that Hill was able to retain his position of influence and continue to embezzle marbles. Hill eventually resigned from M. F. Christensen and soon officially joined the Akro Agate Company. With him he brought Martin’s machine designs, the glass formulas Martin had purchased from James Harvey Leighton, and the M. F. Christensen Company’s client list. After trial and error Hill managed to modify Martin Christensen’s plans sufficiently for the patent office to recognize his new designs as sufficiently different from Christensen’s and grant him his own patent. Years later the patent was later deemed to have been granted erroneously but in 1914 it was what allowed Akro to legally manufacture marbles for sale. Hill’s machines were actually faster than Christensen’s and though they had design flaws which probably resulted in a high rate of rejected marbles, Akro quickly became very competitive.
This was a trying time for the Christensens but with determination and some adjustments in their own marketing strategies, the M. F. Christensen & Son Co. retained their position of prominence and even worldwide dominance in the marble industry until the U.S. entry into World War I forced them to end marble production in 1917. Hill was convicted of embezzlement in 1915 and died in 1916. Eventually, with the help of legitimate inventors such as John F. Early and marketing specialists such as George A. Pflueger, Akro became the force to be reckoned with in marble making.
In addition to marbles, Akro is well known for their line of toy dishes.
Akro was a strong presence until after World War II. New management, rising costs, increased foreign competition and declining interest in the game of marbles led them to practically a standstill by about 1948, when only one machine was operating. They sold old stock for some time after that. They formally closed by some time in 1951 and the property was auctioned. A May 1951 newspaper article states that the property had been acquired by the Theis Pump and Steel corporation and would be used for making castings for Army tanks.
Akro marbles are classics and still very popular after all these years. In spite of their rocky start they are a justly admired company.
American Machine-Made Marbles, 2006, Dean Six, Susie Metzler and Michael Johnson
Collecting Antique Marbles: Identification and Price Guide, 4th ed., Paul Baumann
M.F. Christensen and the Perfect Glass Ball Machine, 1990,