When Was the Marble Run Invented?

Some things are easy to pinpoint when they were invented. Other things like marble run are much harder, mostly because they were created so long ago.

History of Marbles and Marble Run

Marbles have been around for thousands of years and we know that marbles were played with by many ancient civilisations including the Romans and Egyptians. Small stone balls have been discovered dating from 2500 BCE and there are mentions of children playing games with walnuts in Roman literature.

However no one really knows where marbles originated, and the likelihood is that similar games developed around the world from children playing with polished river stones or nuts.

Marbles most likely get their name from the fact they would have been made from polished alabaster or marble.

Marbles can be made from many materials. The most popular today is probably glass. There are examples of ancient marbles being made of clay, stone and glass with clay and ceramic marbles being mass-produced in the late 19th century and glass marbles starting to be mass-produced around 1915.

Today, as well as glass marbles, we also love our collection of wooden marbles that make a very much softer but still hugely satisfying sound when they click together.

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So what about marble runs?

Marble runs are not only popular children’s toys, but known also as rolling ball sculptures they are a popular form of kinetic art and can be found in museums and public spaces all over the world.

However, just like marbles themselves, no one can pinpoint when they were first invented or by whom. You can easily imagine children creating runs for their marbles out of sticks and stones as a way of playing with the popular toy when others weren’t around to play with. And there are some fantastic examples of huge, mesmerising ball run sculptures that inspire children and adults alike.

Why not invent your own marble run?

Just because we don’t know when marble runs were first invented doesn’t mean you can’t invent your own.

Parallel tracks are the most popular method for ball run sculptures and many commercially available toys use this method as well. But you can use cardboard, straws, pool noodles, and whatever else you can find.

We would love to see what you create!

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Next Up: What Is a Marble Run?

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