From Ohio History Central
Martin F. Christensen was born in Denmark in 1849. In 1867, he immigrated to the United States and settled in Akron, Ohio. Christensen found employment as a metalworker. In 1899, he designed a machine that could manufacture steel ball bearings. Ball bearings were vital components of numerous machines and products as the United States industrialized during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
In 1902, Christensen invented an automated machine that could manufacture glass marbles. Traditionally, workers made marbles by hand from clay or stone, including marble. By the 1800s, manufacturers began to use glass to make marbles. Glass marbles became easier to produce once marble scissors, which helped workers shape molten glass into a marble shape, were invented in 1846, yet marble manufacturing was still done primarily by hand and remained a time-consuming process. Christensen's invention made glass-marble production an entirely automated process.
It took Christensen until October 24, 1905, to receive his patent for his invention. Two years earlier, Christensen, with his son Charles Frederick Christensen, established the M.F. Christensen and Son Company in Akron. This firm utilized Christensen's invention to manufacture glass marbles. The factory was located in the former Navarre Glass Marble Company's building. Within ten years, the M.F. Christensen and Son Company was manufacturing over twelve million glass marbles every year.
Unfortunately for Christensen, the M.F. Christensen and Son Company did not remain in business long. While Christensen's invention dramatically sped up and reduced the cost of glass marble production, a shortage of natural gas during the Winter of 1916-1917 forced the company to cease operations in December 1917. The firm needed natural gas to heat the glass. The natural gas shortage caused the M.F. Christensen and Son Company to scale back production during the Winter of 1916 and 1917, and the firm never regained financial stability. Christensen did not live to see his company's collapse. He died in 1915.