Distinctly Downtown: Akron History Exhibit and The American Toy Marble Museum

Akron History Exhibit and the American Toy Marble Museum

I did not know what to expect when walking into a museum that focused on toy marbles. It never really struck me as a crucial piece of history that one city could find important. I was wrong; it is a big piece to a much larger, captivating puzzle that is Akron’s history.
The museum has so much more than marbles in glass cases. It is a gleaming reminder of the history of Akron that anyone who lives in Akron must attend. I am from Cincinnati, and I had never expected so much affluent and pivotal history to engross Akron. No wonder LeBron wanted to come back. Akron has history and who wouldn’t want to be a part of it?

DSC00812When you enter the exhibit, everything you see is engulfed in fascinating history. The first thing that greets you when you walk in is a staunch, tall gate, which was actually the original gate in the Summit County Court House. There is also a display that shows you Akron in its earliest days as a simple village with the canals running through it. It is an interesting piece as it washes away the concrete buildings you see today and takes you back nearly a century and a half. The display was also built by students of the University of Akron.

DSC00828I found the most interesting history surrounding the marbles to be that they signified the birth of mass production of toys. Due to mass production becoming prominent, toy prices dropped and more than 250 manufacturers sprouted up during that time, making Akron a beacon of toy manufacturing, bringing joy to children throughout the nation. It did not stop there when it came to toys. Akron was producing so much rubber at the time; they began wondering what to do with all of the excess rubber. This created a new market for rubber toys, such as the Rubber Duck, which became a staple of children’s lives. Akron in many ways was a huge part of creating a memorable childhood for children across the country.

The manager, Michael C. Cohill, is absolutely phenomenal in explaining all of the displays and history that is housed in the museum. Writing it all down in this blog would be an extreme disservice to Mr. Cohill, as the sheer passion he exudes during his explanations of the displays is simply enchanting. You can see he cares thoroughly about the city of Akron, and is ecstatic to shed light on its history of Akron with anyone. Mr. Cohill knows what Akron has been, what it is, and has visions of what Akron could do in the future.

DSC00821There is so much more housed in this museum that will absolutely stun the Akron community and visitors. It would be a travesty to pass up. It is extremely family focused and the people who work there absolutely love families of all ages and sizes to see all that it has to offer. “We love the holidays,” said Michael C. Cohill, “The busiest times of the year are October through December.” They love to decorate for the holidays and enjoy getting Akron involved with activities to decorate their area in Lock 3.

I could gush for hours about all that I had learned in my short visit to the museum but I would rather leave it up to you to go check it out and piece the puzzle together yourself. A piece of Akron you might not know anything about will captivate you as Akron was a pioneer of many things that you’ve come to know today.

Founded by the City of Akron, the Akron History Exhibit is a project of The Summit County Historical Society of Akron in partnership with the Akron-Summit County Public Library.

Partners:
Akron Police Museum
Akron Fire Department
All-American Soap Box Derby
Cascade Locks Park Association
Hower House
The University of Akron
The Lighter-Than-Air Society
Summit Metro Parks
The Shirla McClain Gallery for Black History & Culture (U Akron)
Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens
The TV Dinner Club Museum
The University of Akron Archival Services
Wacky Woodcarvers

By: John Frank, Downtown Akron Partnership Intern

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