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Archeologists Find the Real Santa

Historic Site in Akron, Ohio is Original North Pole. 

During the winter of 2001-2002, an archeological team working in downtown Akron, Ohio’s Lock 3 Park, unearthed a small ceramic figurine. It is a curious little man with a sweet face and long white beard, wearing a blue hooded coat. When thoroughly cleaned and examined they discovered this was Santa – the first and original – the real Santa.  

Head archeologist, Brian Graham, President of the non-profit, American Toy Marble Museum, conducted the survey on the site of the first mass-produced toy – a clay marble. His team of volunteers discovered tens of thousands of marbles and an equal number of small, ‘penny toys.’  

Graham estimates the figurine was manufactured in the mid-1890s, making it the first figurine of an American Santa and likely the oldest three-dimensional representation of Santa in existence.

The figurine was thought at first, by some, to be a wizard or gnome, but in-depth research over the following seven years proved the Blue Santa is the real Santa. 

Samuel C. Dyke, Father of the Modern Toy Industry 
In 1883 a group of Akron newspapermen founded the Akron Toy Company on the site which today is Lock 3 Park. In 1884, Samuel C. Dyke, the company’s Superintendent invented a device that allowed one worker to make 800 to 1,000 clay marbles per hour. This was the first mass-produced toy and it was an immediate success.  

Marbles at the time were the most popular children’s game in the history of the USA. Previously, all marbles were hand-made, relatively expensive and most were imported from Germany. Mass-production allowed the price of Dyke’s marbles to plummet. For a penny, a child could buy a whole hand-full of marbles.   

In 1891 Dyke incorporated The American Marble & Toy Manufacturing Company with $100,000 in stock. The company employed 350 hands and it became the world’s largest toy company. 

Previous to 1884 and the mass-production of marbles in Akron, there were toy companies and their toys were hand-made, beautifully painted and so expensive only the wealthiest families in the world, royalty, etc. could afford to buy them for their children. All the other children could only dream and wish they had the same toys the rich children play with and their only chance of getting a real toy was to ask Santa. Unfortunately, they were always disappointed, as the real Santa didn’t exist yet. 

The introduction of mass-produced toys at Dyke’s marbleworks in Akron, Ohio changed the lives of children for ever. His company was so successful that other local entrepreneurs opened up their own marble factories and by the 1920s there were a total of 32 marble companies in the greater Akron area.  

In the 1980s there were gentlemen on the other side of Akron looking for new uses for rubber. They saw the birth of this new market for children’s products and jumped on the bandwagon. They turned out the first mass-produced balloons, rubber balls, rubber dollies, rubber duckies and rubber baby buggy bumpers. By 1929 there were over 130 Akron area companies making and selling all types and styles of inexpensive toys to children all over the world. 

When Akron’s Congressman, William McKinley, became President of the United States in 1900 Sam Dyke became McKinley’s Industrial Ambassador, At-Large. Dyke sold his toy company to his brother Actaeon and traveled the world seeking new manufacturing methods that could be used and improved in the USA. 

Fire Destroys Marbleworks 
One night in 1904 the toy factory caught fire and rapidly burnt to the ground. The next morning every little boy in Akron was down at the factory site stuffing their pockets with marbles. The Mayor of Akron ordered the police to guard the site and keep the boys away.  But, when the Mayor learned Actaeon left town soon after the fire and the company didn’t have fire insurance, he declared the site a public nuisance and ordered it buried. The City couldn’t allow children to rummage around the burnt out remains of a factory and there wasn’t any other way to keep them out. This is how a million marbles and toys came to be buried at Lock 3 Park.  

The Real Santa 
In 2000 the City of Akron began work on what would become Lock 3 Park, on the site of Sam Dyke’s old marbleworks. They allowed The American Toy Marble Museum to conduct an archeological examination. And, when they were digging at the site of the first mass-produced toy, the place where the world’s toy industry began, the place where the first inexpensive toys were made, so that all children could own a toy, they found Santa – the real Santa. 

The Blue Santa is, of course, a symbol representing the most significant change in toys and children’s gift giving. Before the Blue Santa children played with sticks and rocks and rope, but they didn’t have or play with toys. But, the miracle of mass-production, represented by the Blue Santa, for the 1st time in world history brought toys to all children, the world over and for all times since. 

This is the real Santa. The kind and generous spirit who brings toys to all “good girls and boys,” world-wide. The same Santa who’ll bringing toys to your home this Christmas.   

The Spirit of the Blue Santa Lives On 
In 2007 representatives of The American Toy Marble Museum began making authentic reproductions of the Blue Santa, using the same ceramic techniques used in the mid-1890s at American Marble & Toy Manufacturing Company.  That Christmas season, sales were astounding. Additional elves were hired, production increased to thousands per week, and yet demand was still so high they had to limit customers’ purchases to three per sale.   

By hiring additional elves and working with Akron area workshops who hire disabled persons, production now continues year round. 

There is something uniquely wonderful and loving about the Blue Santa that has touched the hearts of all who see him. If you would like to own a Blue Santa of your own, you can get one here, on-line. If you wish to view the original in person, he’s still there at his birthplace, he hasn’t left. But he’s now in a beautiful display case at The American Toy Marble Museum in Lock 3 Park, Akron, Ohio – the original North Pole. 


The Blue Santa

The Original and Real Santa Clause 

The Characters: 

Walter E. Wellman; was the highest paid journalist in the USA at the turn of the 20th Century. In the early 1880s Wellman was editor and publisher of the Akron Daily News. In 1883 he incorporated the Akron Toy Company. He then got an offer he couldn’t refuse, turned his newspaper and toy company over to his protégé Samuel C. Dyke and left town for Washington D.C. to work as the political reporter for the Chicago Herald 

Samuel C. Dyke; is the father of the modern toy industry; the first to mass-produce a toy – a clay marble in 1884 and founded a half dozen toy marbleworks in Akron, Ohio. In 1901 he was appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, at-large, by US President William McKinley. He was president of the world’s largest electrical insulating companies and help start the National Marbles Tournament in 1923. 

Actaeon L. Dyke (a.k.a. A.L. or AL;) was Sam Dyke’s older brother. The two brothers were at times the best friends and close working associates, at other times they couldn’t work with each other at all and were fierce competitors in the toy business.   

The Blue Santa; is a blue, salt-glazed figurine of a German, “Father Christmas,” style Santa and the oldest figurine of an American-made Santa known to exist. He was manufactured in the mid-1890s by The American Marble & Toy Manufacturing Company in Akron, Ohio. Standing 2 and 1/2” tall, he was the largest toy manufactured by the company. Brian Graham, President of The American Toy Marble Museum, once a professional archeologist, discovered the Blue Santa in an archeological excavation during the winter of 2001-2002.


The Summit County Beacon, August 15, 1883  - 1:3


Messrs. S.C. Smith, of Smith Bros., and Walter E. Wellman, late editor of the Daily News, have taken out a certificate of incorporation for the Akron Toy Company. These gentlemen propose to manufacture and sell a toy safe bank, for which a patent will be issued in two or three weeks. The company propose to engage in the general toy business next year, but will devote their energies in pushing their specialty during the holidays this year. 
The Akron Toy Company later became The American Marble & Toy Manufacturing Company. 

The Story of the Blue Santa 

Samuel C. Dyke was the first person to mass produce a toy – a clay marble – in 1884. His Akron, Ohio toy company proved the theory; if you mass-produce something children like, you can reduce its price to a point where children can buy it with their own money. For a penny you could buy a fistful of Dyke’s American Agate Marbles.  

That was the start of what we know today as the modern toy industry and children’s product industry. 

By 1888 Dyke was making and selling one million marbles a day, enough to fill 5 railroad box cars, and was well on his way to becoming a millionaire. This caused other entrepreneurs in Akron to open up their own marble factories and by 1900 there were more than two dozen companies formed to make toy marbles.  

Around the same time there were men on the other side of Akron looking for new uses for rubber (Akron, OH. was the rubber capital of the world until the 1970s.) They witnessed the success of these marble-men and turned out the first mass-produced balloons, rubber balls, rubber dollies, rubber duckies and rubber-baby-buggy-bumpers.  Others opened toy factories to turn out tops, iron banks, wooden and tin toys; bikes, trikes and peddle cars; color picture books, paper doll cut-outs and puzzles – this is a long list. By 1929 there were over 120 toy companies operating in the greater Akron area.  

There are still major toy companies operating here today, Little Tykes, Step Two, Maple City Rubber, Balloon Accessories, Inc. etc. However, 80% of the toys sold in the world today are manufactured in China where labor costs are so low, making the cost of a toy so low, that children can afford to buy them with their own money.  

The World Before Sam Dyke 

Back in the early 1880s, before Sam Dyke mass-produced the first toy, there were toy-makers and toy companies. However, these were hand-made toys; skillfully crafted, beautifully painted, and so expensive that only the wealthiest families in the world, i.e.; royalty and robber barons, could afford to buy them for their children.   

Common children made-do with home-made toys; a miniature horse whittled by grandpa from a piece of wood, or a rag doll made by mom. They’d heard about the wonderful toys the rich children played with and they wished to have ones like those too. The only chance of getting a toy like there’s was to ask Santa, but they were always disappointed. At that time the real Santa – the one we all know and love today -- didn’t exist. That santa could only deliver nuts, sweet treats to eat like an apple and the warmest clothes the family could afford.  

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