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Marble King Will Open State Exhibit Monday

By Staff | Mar 11, 2009

The West Virginia Division of Culture and History will celebrate the exhibit, West Virginia’s Gift to the World: Marble KingThe World’s Finest Marbles, with a gala reception on March 16 at 6 p.m., at the Cultural Center, State Capitol Complex in Charleston. Visitors can meet Beri Fox, owner and president of the Paden City company, and witness the presentation of a limited edition marble of the world to Governor Joe Manchin III, First Lady Gayle Manchin, and Commissioner Randall Reid-Smith of the Division of Culture and History. The exhibition and opening reception are free and open to the public.

Visitors also can see a film about the company and purchase two different sizes of the limited edition marble of the world and other selected items. Marble King will provide a certificate of authenticity with the limited edition marble.

The exhibit is on display in the Lobby Gallery where visitors can see a colorful mural of marbles which features the Marble King logo. The mural has 47,232 marbles, measures six feet by 16 feet, weighs 393.5 pounds and was created by members of the division’s technical services staff. There also are vitrines which contain games such as the Wizard of Oz Family Board Game, Hungry Hippos, and Marble Quest: 3-D Tic-Tac-Triva to name a few. In addition there is a “Marble Drop,” which begins in the Balcony Gallery, ends in the Great Hall, and visitors can drop marbles down through a wooden trough to a maze.

Other items on display include a marble gauge and marbles which were on a NASA balloon flight on May 24, 2003, DVD about the company, photographs, marble terminology, and more.

Berry Pink and Sellers Peltier founded Marble King in 1949, although the history of the company really began in the 1930s and early 1940s when the marbles were actually manufactured by Peltier Glass in Ottawa, Ill. By the late 1940s, Pink, a successful businessman who loved interacting with children, was selling more marbles than Peltier could produce. The two joined forces and formed another manufacturing company, with Pink holding the majority of shares. He traveled across the country hosting marble tournaments and giving away marbles at each stop. Pink became known as the “Marble King” which is the name they used when the company was formed in 1949.

Originally Marble King was located in St. Marys. When a fire destroyed the factory in 1958, the manager, Roger Howdyshell, moved the company to Paden City. Howdyshell, an engineering major before serving in World War II, returned to school after the war under the G. I. Bill to get a degree in business. He was hired right out of college and began working his way up the ladder.

Howdyshell was an innovative man who left his mark on the marble industry in many ways. He led Marble King to produce the first American-made Cat’s Eye marble and developed a process called “veneering.” This allowed the marble manufacturer to use less expensive glass as base glass and put a thin coating on the exterior surface to give the marble color. After dedicating his life to the industry, Howdyshell purchased Marble King in 1983. When he died in 1991, his wife Jean and daughter Beri Fox ran the company until Jean died in 2003.

Marble King’s marbles can be found in marble games, board games, fish tanks, jewelry, landscape accents, on decorative vases, in spray paint cans, and other industrial applications. They have been featured in movies such as The Goonies, Hook, and Home Alone. Marble King is the leader in marble production shipping worldwide and in 2000 it received the Governor’s Award for Excellence in Exporting.

Marble King continues to make inventive strides and creates interest throughout the world. In 2007, Governor Joe Manchin III presented the company with the Governor’s Commendation for International Market Entry, an award it has won many times in the past and will strive to do in the future.

For more information about the West Virginia’s Gift to the World: Marble KingThe World’s Finest Marbles exhibit opening, contact Jacqueline Proctor, deputy commissioner for the division, at (304) 558-0220. For more information about the exhibit, contact Charles Morris, manager of collections and exhibitions for the division, at (304) 558-0220.

The West Virginia Division of Culture and History, an agency of the West Virginia Department of Education and the Arts, brings together the state’s past, present, and future through programs and services in the areas of archives and history, the arts, historic preservation, and museums. Its administrative offices are located at the Cultural Center in the State Capitol Complex in Charleston.