Friday, January 2, 2015

The 2015 Fabrications: Seeing Marbles

January 2, 2015

In 1912, the second largest marble manufacturer in the United States, Fitzway Works, included, as a special promotion, an eyeball in beginner packs.

The background:

The founder, owner, and president of Fitzway Works, Edgar Fitz, died suddenly on February 19, 1912. His family was left scrambling on the best way to maintain the family fortunes. Of biggest concern was the manufacture and sale of marbles. These small toys were a big seller for the family business, resulting in 80% of the family fortune.
Edgar's eldest son, Foster Fitz, took on the task of the marble business. At the time, Fitzway Works was the second largest provider of marbles to United States children. Unfortunately, Foster was not as business-savvy as his late father and sales began to falter.
Foster Fitz was more intrigued by the apothecary and medical supply collection his eccentric father had bequeathed to him. Included in this rather large collection was an entire warehouse stacked with large white buckets labelled "vision." Foster discovered these buckets were filled with glass eyeballs.
Glass eyeballs were common in optometry at that time but were rapidly becoming obsolete due to the rising popularity of eyepatches. Realizing that these thousands of fake eyes would not sell in the medical world, Foster had a flash of marketing genius.
He would combine the family's main, but beginning to struggle, business, with his father's odd obsession with fake eyeballs. So every starter pack of marbles to be sold in stores from Fitzway Works in the second half of 1912 include one special "seeing marble." This "mystical marble," according to the original packaging, was "hand-picked from Edgar Fitz' personal collection and designed to see previously undiscovered shots in any drawn circle."

Unfortunately, the inherent creepiness of young children finding an eyeball in their birthday presents spelled the downfall of Fitzway Works' marble business. The last marble sold by Fitzway Works was on December 28, 1912.

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