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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

100 years ago in Spokane: Marbles were front-page news after a shortage caused ‘acute suffering’ in kids

 (Spokane Daily Chronicle archives)
(Spokane Daily Chronicle archives)
By Jim Kershner The Spokesman-Review

How many marbles were headed for the pockets of Spokane schoolchildren?

One million.

That was the estimate made by the head of a Spokane toy department. This was a vast increase over earlier years, when there was a worldwide marble shortage. Marbles were easily the biggest schoolyard fad of the era, and the shortage had caused “acute suffering” in the grade school set.

The kids, in other words, had lost their marbles.

Now, however, the hard times were over.

“Billions of marbles have been shipped into the country this year,” the toy manager at M. Seller and Co. said. “It is safe to say that at least a million of them will be put into circulation here.”

The John W. Graham Co. said it had already sold a “an immense number of marbles to the small dealers this year.”

“The corner grocery is reaping a harvest of nickels and dimes,” the Spokane Daily Chronicle reported.

From the irrigation beat: The Columbia Basin Project – without question the biggest economic development project in the region’s history – was looking more like a sure thing.

U.S. Congress member J. Stanley Webster said, “I feel safe in saying that the project is to be developed as a federal one.”

He based this assessment on the ease in which two Columbia Basin appropriation bills made it through Congress. Those bills only funded investigations into the feasibility of the project, but he believed it augured well for full funding approval.

Not yet decided: Which of two competing proposals would be carried out. One called for transporting water through canals and tunnels from the Pend Oreille River, and one called for damming the Columbia River at Grand Coulee.

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