Tag Archives: Marbles

A Forgotten 1915 Brooklyn Tragedy: Four Boys Die In An Accident, Shattering Two Families Forever

Two Pairs of Brothers, Together In Life And Death

100th Anniversary Of The Forgotten Brooklyn Explosion That Killed Two Sets Of Young Brothers

While wandering the bucolic grounds of the Evergreens Cemetery on the Brooklyn – Queens border you come across many interesting monuments. There are Triangle shirtwaist fire victims, General Slocum memorials and many historic notables. And then there are the monuments like this one that are inexplicable on first inspection.

Zimmer inscription monument

Zimmer inscription monument

Higgins inscription monument

Higgins inscription monument









Two sets of brothers each between 7 and 11-years-old all dying on March 13, 1915 and are buried together. This unique memorial has an angel, with a few fingers and toes missing, head bowed in sorrow, standing between the two columns that are connected at the top by a triangular stone with the Gospel of Luke quotation inscribed across it, “Suffer Little Children To Come Unto Me”.

Oil Explosion kills boys March 13 1915 memorial at Evergreens cemeteryMy first thought was that the boys were probably cousins or related in some other way and died in a house fire.

But checking the news accounts from the following days reveals a senseless tragedy of two unrelated families children just being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The Zimmer boys, Henry age 11 and Herbert age 7, of 186 Warwick Street and the Higgins boys, Alex age 11 and Arthur age 8 of 174 Warwick Street were close friends and neighbors growing up a few doors from each other. Continue reading

Have You Lost Your Marbles?

1930 Marbles Champion Vincent Sullivan

Marbles is a game that I have never seen anyone play in person in my entire life. When I was a young boy, I had a collection of marbles that my grandparents gave me. I would roll them around and marvel at the beautiful orbs of color, but no one ever taught me how to play marbles. Somewhere among my many apartment moves I did lose my marbles. American children seem to have lost their marbles too, for the game is clearly not popular anymore.

click to enlarge

Marbles as a competitive game is still played, but there are probably more collectors of marbles than there are players worldwide. It was, and remains a great way for children to entertain themselves without adult supervision and the game can be played almost anywhere.  All you need are some marbles and the ability to draw a circle on some surface other than grass or sand. To be great at marbles, you really need to have skill. Ask Charlie Brown.

Vincent Sullivan was a 13-year-old marbles champion who had a secret.

He had run away from his Massachusetts home in May 1930 to “see the world.” Vincent came to New York City and had been making a living selling newspapers and residing at The Brace Memorial Newsboys Home, 224 William Street. During his time in New York, Vincent had incredibly won the newsboys marbles championship. James Lee the national marbles champion, was going to play Vincent at Ocean City, NJ in an exhibition match on board The Ecuador, a steamship.   At the last minute Lee’s managers refused to let Lee play the match, so his title would not be jeopardized.  Sullivan’s ability to shoot marbles resulted in the photograph above. Newspapers across the country ran the photo of the freckle-faced boy with the missing front teeth.

The jig would be up for Vincent because of that picture.

His foster mother Mrs. Ebca Philip of Fall River, MA recognized his picture in the local  newspaper and had the New York City police hold him at the Children’s Society until she could drive down to get him.  On July 5, 1930 she arrived in the city to bring him home.

The notoriety of this story made national headlines and was followed with offers for jobs, trips and even a movie contract for the urchin marbles champion.  Vincent and his foster mother left for a tour of South America on July 20, 1930 playing exhibitions in many countries as a guest of the Panama Line, the steamship company.

After winning against the boys of Cartagena, Colombia,  Vincent was badly defeated in three straight matches by the Canal Zone marbles champ Robert Oller on July 30, 1930 at Balboa Stadium. Whether it was stage fright or the heat, Vincent was beaten so soundly that one of the Canal Zone boys who had watched the matches said “Gosh! We eat players like him down here.”