Thursday, May 18, 2017

Bird-a-thon Lite

The Massachusetts  Audubon Society schedules its annual Bird-a-thon for the peak of spring migration when the possibility of fair weather, colorful plumage, and the absence of annoying tree leaves give us the best chance at varied sightings in a twenty-four hour sprint.

Northern flicker
 In the weeks leading up to the Bird-a-thon I worked on extending my stalking ability into the treetops. The uncertain balance point lies where the limits of the zoom lens meet the limits of wariness.

Turkey vulture passing the Halibut Point State Park Visitors' Center
 Birds with their superior vision maintain the upper hand in this contest. From the heights they keep an eye on the binoculars and cameras below.

Green heron
 Down at the quarry rim we photographers enjoy wide-open sight lines but so do the birds. They generally head for the exits at the sight of even innocuous intruders like me.

Double-crested cormorant
Their disappearance into the air pits admiration against frustration. The camera man can no more command a portrait than he can fly.

Spotted sandpiper
Sometimes the portrait itself doesn't fly, in the instant of composing, focusing, exposing, and not breathing or being visible. But perhaps you will manage enough for an indisputable sighting record, with GPS and dating authority, to contribute at the Bird-a-thon tabulation.

Swamp sparrow
There are fine points of identification to sharpen up.

Field sparrow
I studied distinctions among some of the 'Little Brown Jobs' - LBJs.

Often enough the pleasures of art and nature sweetened the pursuit of science and math on a ramble through the Park.

Chris Leahy at dawn
I joined Chris Leahy and friends at 6:00 this past Saturday morning for the Halibut Point portion of the Bird-a-thon.

Peering into the dim, pewtery skies the experts called out gannets, ring-billed gulls, and red-throated loons. From somewhere in the treetops they distinguished vocalizations of warblers: northern parula, black-throated blue, Wilson's. Their unfulfilled prize would have been to hear the drumbeat coos of a black-billed cuckoo, bringing their cumulative multi-year Cape Ann Bird-a-thon total to 199 species. But the cuckoo probably wouldn't show up for a week or two.

Red-breasted nuthatch
I added to my Halibut Point portfolio a sharp photograph of a tiny hyperactive nuthatch holding pose for a moment between branches of a spruce tree. Its spritely success within nature's pitfalls, its pert beauty, surely reprised the delight at the heart of each member of the Bird-a-thon band.

*  *  *

The Bird-a-thon Team entering Halibut Point State Park,
warming up to jokes for roasting Chris
at his retirement party from Mass Audubon this week.
Neil Emond photo
Ps - overdue warm weather brought the black-billed cuckoo to Halibut Point on Wednesday.

Friday, May 12, 2017



Shad blossoms

Hermit thrush


Gray birch catkins

American lady butterfly on dandelion

Staghorn sumac

Highbush blueberry

Chickadee in apple blossoms

Cattails rising

Thursday, May 4, 2017


The Granite Industry, Part 5 of 6

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union,...provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty....  Preamble to the Constitution, 1787
The fledgling American government aimed to foster an environment where individuals and businesses could thrive fairly. It had to define citizenship and immigration policies, mediating among intensely different points of view toward an 'Open Door.' During the nineteenth century the original thirteen States increased to forty-five. Territorial, economic, and population  expansion took on mythic values interrupted by cycles of crash and conflict that elicited a growing response in government regulation. The evolution of Cape Ann granite commerce from an artisan to industrial enterprise coincided with all these trends.

The Constitutional mandate to "provide for the common defense" was exacerbated by our own expansionism and by the shifting ambitions of European powers. In 1812 the United States was at war again with England. Government expenditures for coastal defense gave early impetus to the granite industry. 

Fort Warren, Boston Harbor 1

Many of the first quarry developments here between 1824 and 1842 resulted from shoreline resource explorations to supply stone for the fortification of Boston Harbor islandsarbor islandsi engineered by Colonel Sylvanus Thayer, and the development of naval yards at Charlestown and Portsmouth. 2

Norfolk (VA) Naval Yard dry dock under construction, 1918.
Stone supplied by the Rockport Granite Company. 3
Government appropriations continued to fund large opportunities for the granite industry throughout its history. Cape Ann artisans learned to satisfy ornate as well as structural standards. Local granite companies crafted dimension stone and facades for many handsome edifices around the country, such as these pictured below. 4 
Boston Custom House
Essex County Courthouse, Salem
The Longfellow Bridge connecting Boston and Cambridge

Stock purchase agreement by incorporators of the Rockport Granite Company
Authorized by Internal Revenue stamp October 4, 1864 5
The new American political economy met the Industrial Revolution by experimenting with methods of business formation. In Europe, up to the middle of the nineteenth century, the typical corporation was a privileged monopoly created by rulers in return for favors promised by the company, and few such entities existed. Early America was not so different. It appears that only seven business corporations were created in the Thirteen Colonies, and another twenty eight up to 1790. By 1860 state legislatures had chartered more than 30,000 corporations. 6

Chartering corporations by special acts of state legislatures became a system susceptible to corruption. Incumbent or aspiring corporations would bribe or otherwise influence legislators. The solution to these problems after they became increasingly evident was the general incorporation statute, which makes the granting of corporate charters a routine function of the executive branch. This was the environment in which the Rockport Granite Company sought legislative sanctification in 1864, followed by the Cape Ann Granite Company in 1867.

Governing functions expanded inexorably with the growth of America. Public support, or demand, envisioned an increasing role to "promote the general Welfare and secure the Blessings of Liberty."  The government sector gradually assumed a vital presence in education, transportation, utilities, commerce, health, safety. Public works benefitted consumers and producers. 

The proposed Sandy Bay Harbor of Refuge, 1894 7

Maritime support, a traditional service of government, resulted in significant boons to the Cape Ann granite suppliers. Sandy Bay Harbor received its defining enclosure by the federally funded Long Cove Breakwater project of 1836-1840. The maritime sanctuary concept was extended remarkably by a petition for the Sandy Bay Harbor of Refuge. Construction of a granite wall nearly two miles long emerging from sixty-foot depths of the Atlantic Ocean was sponsored by Congressional appropriations from 1885 to 1915, bringing headline notice from the New York Times "To Have Second Largest Harbor: Rockport, Mass., Will Rank Next to Cherbourg, France, When Breakwater is Completed." 8 Local newspapers carried accounts of bountiful speeches and banquets as each segment was completed and new rounds of expenditure proposed.

Placing capstones on the Sandy Bay Breakwater, c. 1915 3

To supply the prodigious amount of stone required for one substantial phase of the Sandy Bay (Rockport), Dog Bar (Gloucester), and Newburyport breakwaters in 1896 the three major Cape Ann granite companies "hitherto in deadly competition" successfully combined their bid. 9 One of the boons of this type of construction was a compensated dumping ground for the jagged quarry waste stone which could lock together desirably in a breakwater foundation. Supplying huge dimensional stones for the superstructure gave rise to new quarry developments on Folly Point and Halibut Point.

The budgetary strains of World War One halted the breakwater boon. It never revived as engine-powered vessels coming to the fore after the Age of Sail had less need for a Harbor of Refuge. Increasing governmental consideration for the welfare of labor in the twentieth century counted as another factor in the untenable circumstances of the granite industry here.

1. 1906 photo from the Detroit Publishing Co. collection, The Library of Congress.
2. Lemuel Gott, History of Rockport, 1888.
3. Sandy Bay Historical Society photos.
4. Arthur Wellington Brayley, History of the Granite Industry of New England, Volume 2, 1913.
5. Rockport Granite Company Collection, Baker Library, Harvard Business School.
6. Richard Sylla, "How the American Corporation Evolved Over Two Centuries," Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, Vol. 158 No. 4, December 2014.
7. Sketch from "The Building of a Breakwater" by Herman Babson, New England Magazine, October 1894.
8. New York Times, September 27, 1914. Erkkila notes, Cape Ann Museum.
9. The Boston Globe, September 28, 1896. Erkkila notes, Cape Ann Museum.

Thursday, April 27, 2017


The Granite Industry, Part 4 of 6
Capital goods come into being through human effort but unlike raw materials they are not used up in the production process. A company's facilities and an individual's tools form part of the capital investments in their enterprises. 

Hammers, drills, and a hand-powered derrick--
the capital stock of a small quarrying operation 1
Nonrenewable resources of nature such as the land and the granite itself do not count as capital assets for the quarrymen, but their equipment and transportation systems do. 

A steam-powered drill and derrick--
the tools of a highly capitalized quarrying company 1
Large-scale operations depend on pooling the capabilities of many people to increase both physical capital and intangible capital such as talent, training, and management. Cultural attitudes form a part of social capital. The recognition and optimization of these factors in part define the modern economic era. 

Rudimentary shipping facilities at Halibut Point in the late nineteenth century 1

Economic advancement began with the cooperation of artisans, entrepreneurs, and workers in specialized trades and alliances. The flourishing of the Cape Ann granite industry during the century 1830-1930 coincided not only with technological developments but with evolving concepts of the organization and reward of capital by means of corporations. The rising power of financial capital and the nature of government's mandate received increasing attention both practically and philosophically.

Signatures of the incorporators of the Rockport Granite Company of Massachusetts, 1864

In founding of the Rockport Granite Company (RGCo) in 1864 local quarrymen Ezra Eames and John Stimson leveraged their physical and experiential capital with the financial capital of Stimson's brother J. Henry Stimson and his worldly associates/stockholders on State Street, Boston. Together they chartered the first granite corporation on Cape Ann. An important aspect of corporate structure is that it limits the liability of any investor to the sum of his own investment, while concentrating joint resources for business operations.
Rail and shipping facilities developed at Halibut Point in the early twentieth century 1
The corporate acumen of the Rockport Granite Company enabled it to capitalize extensive quarrying operations, railways, and shipping facilities. By 1915 it had bought up all the other significant companies and reigned supreme in Cape Ann granite production. 2

The Rockport Granite Company brought the locomotive Nella by barge to Babson Farm Quarry, Halibut Point in 1911 after the liquidation of the Cape Ann Granite Company founded by
Col. Jonas H. French. The Nella had been named for French's wife. 1
A certificate for 10 shares of stock in the Rockport Granite Company
The stockholders of the RGCo occasionally financed opportunities for expansion through the offering of new shares of equity stock to investors. Each share represented a fraction of ownership in the business. Shareholders gained the right to vote on corporate matters such as election of the board of directors and proportional distributions in the company's income as dividends.
While the corporate office of the RGCo shifted to Boston, John Stimson continued in a hands-on capacity to manage local operations as its agent and treasurer until 1881. Subsequently his nephew Charles Stimson Rogers held the office of treasurer, then president of the corporation. 3
Charles Stimson Rogers, c. 1913 4
Insofar as the minutes reveal proceedings, annual shareholder meetings of the RGCo tended to be perfunctory gatherings to approve major decisions of the board of directors, the elected trustees of the corporation. Prominent among the directors were the officers of the corporation, especially members of the Rogers family. The salaried officers made the day-to-day operational decisions as well as guiding corporate direction and welfare. Over the decades of its existence the RGCo did grapple with significant issues of scope and identity in response to the economic climate and the inclinations of major stockholders. 

Promotional material from a RGCo brochure,
reproducing advertisements from The Architectural Record in the 1920s 1
The Rockport Granite Company achieved the expertise to sell both rough and finished stone products on the national market.

RGCo's locomotive Vulcan shuttling stone between its quarries and wharves 1
At a pivotal point in its growth the company took the visionary capital step of tunneling under the highway to link its principal quarries directly to the shipping wharves. It funded and constructed an arched bridge for the public thoroughfare.
The mysterious fate of the corporation, 1930 5
The Cape Ann granite industry, especially suited to durable construction purposes and ocean transport, struggled to survive the twentieth-century popularity of concrete, smooth roads for automobiles, and softer stone for monuments and veneers. Fair labor demands from immigrant workers, as they became established, added cost pressures to the business. The national economy suffered the Crash of 1929. 

By this time the RGCo had come under control of a never-identified stockholder(s) represented by a New York attorney, who acquired a controlling share of the capital stock. The calculations of the new owner(s), whether vindictive, competitive or naïve, remain known. The directors found themselves powerless to function. The Rockport Granite Company ceased its corporate existence in 1931. C. S. Roger's son Louis Rogers formed a short-lived Paving Block Corporation and devoted the next fifteen years to selling off the extensive acreage of the RGCo that had devolved to a mortgage holding company.

1. Photos from the Sandy Bay Historical Society.
2. I am indebted to Leslie Bartlett for pointing the way to Rockport Granite Company archives conserved at the Baker Library, Harvard University School of Business Administration.
3. Unpublished notes of 1953 interview with Louis A. Rogers by Barbara Erkkila, Cape Ann Museum archives.
4. Portrait from Arthur Wellington Brayley, History of the Granite Industry of New England, Volume 2, 1913.
5. Boston Globe, January 22, 1930.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Growing Pains

The Granite Industry, Part 3 of 6

Out in the north villages of Gloucester and Rockport the nineteenth century granite industry began to offer an alternative livelihood to fishing and subsistence farming. There was money to be made from a possibly unlimited resource beneath their feet, in a trade less vulnerable to the vagaries of nature on land and sea.

Economic opportunity set up rewards and conflicts as it does everywhere. Initiatives had to be accommodated as varying interests jostled and evolved. Quality-of-life standards shifted, grew and submerged with the changes. Immigration inserted a wild card into conservative values. It was a turbulent century for concepts of proprietorship and individual rights. The seeds of regulation in a laissez-faire environment grew even in village life. Newspapers reported on virtues, conundrums, and offenses to good order.

It is the custom of Messrs. Clapp & Ballou's quarries at Pigeon Cove, to hoist from the pits by attaching the fall to cattle and driving across the main road....On Thursday afternoon as Mr. H. H. Tarr was driving past at a somewhat brisk trot, the rope suddenly descended in front of him and but for his presence of mind in instantly throwing it over his head, serious consequences would have resulted. I wish to call the attention of the proper authorities to this dangerous practice, and would suggest that the fall be rove through a snatch block and the cattle driven parallel with the street instead of across.

Cape Ann Advertiser, June 24, 1870

Lanesville quarrymen
Annisquam Historical Society photo
As an example of the complex relationship of hopes and hurdles for an industry nested within a village we can compare three newspaper articles in the Cape Ann Evening Breeze from the year 1885.

The pleasant days which we have had of late have caused things to look more stirring at the pits and wharves, and the merry sound of the hammer is heard all about us. In a few weeks the scale of summer prices will be fixed, new men will be employed to swell the force, and the old hands will change from one quarry to another. May the season develop a better industrial status than we had last summer.
February 26

The industrial situation does not appear very favorable at the present time. The granite companies offer only $1.60 a hundred for New York blocks this season. Last year the price was $2.20 to $2.25. The quarrymen are also offered less than last year. At present it is not possible to tell whether the men will accept these terms....While the companies declare large dividends, there is no reason why the men should not receive fair pay.
April 3
A blast at Canney's quarry threw good sized fragments over the village, though precautions were taken by means of cord wood and other materials placed above the powder. A stone weighing eleven pounds struck the roof of John Witham's house on Powsil Hill, estimated to be about a thousand feet distant from the quarry.
December 31

Oxen carting stone 1
As the granite business grew into robust commerce both the entrepreneurs and the community had to adjust to new patterns and investments, relinquishing familiar ways.
Presumably at least one hundred horses now between Mount Locust and the Rockport Line, and not one pair of oxen, "so that in these days we do not hear, haw Buck, back Star, gee Lion. He has in days gone by when Stimson and Eames carried on the stone business in Lanesville, the only horse they used was the little trotter which took them from over the road to and from their houses in Rockport."
Gloucester Daily Times, March 1, 1892

Babson Farm Quarry, Halibut Point
Sandy Bay Historical Society photo
Allured by the utility of money on the imagination and on personal advancement, the nineteenth century social fabric moved from an artisan toward a corporate economy. Centralized capital both produced and required vast accomplishments and population densities. It softened nature's harshness but introduced some of its own in the vicissitudes of the competitive marketplace. The century left an appalling narrative of injury and disease among granite workers. Concepts of corporate and social welfare roles slowly emerged mostly through the force of organized labor. Government began taking on a greater mediating influence as the world evolved from the simpler times of the Founding Fathers.

Quarry at Pigeon Cove 1
Industrial-scale quarrying tore open the land. It conflicted with the tranquility not only of traditional life but with the increasingly desirable coastal residences. Pigeon Cove's Village Improvement Society requested residents who were able to "purchase a piece of land for a public park, as woodlands are fast disappearing to the granite industry." 2 In Bay View descendants of the original granite aristocracy successfully sought relief through the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court from the infernal noise of the successor company's surfacing machines. 3

Teaming with ox-drawn carts wore heavily on local roads as the granite moved down toward shipping ports. In 1892 Andrews Street at the head of Lanes Cove was stabilized with paving stones to absorb this traffic. Further uphill conditions on Washington Street continued to deteriorate, drawing comment around town and the wit of the press.
City Treasurer Dolliver was out on his bicycle Tuesday, and he had a good chance to see and realize the bad condition of our street between the Congregational meeting house and the post office, for when riding over that road he was thrown off, but received no injury.... Probably Mr. Dolliver would vote to have the street paved. If any of the members of the city government have any doubts about the need of paving the street they should take a ride over the road on a bicycle. 4
By the end of the year municipal funds had been found to pave this section too.

Further into the uplands a petition was circulated asking the County Commissioners to improve High Street, which bore considerable traffic from the Lanesville quarries. Work got under way in 1898 to widen and redirect the street, aggrieving two substantial abutters, Miss Alla F. Young and Mrs. Georgianna Blaisdell. Their attorney protested that "Miss Young's barn, which answered her every purpose, would have to be moved and considerable expense would be involved. The best portion of her land will be taken by the proposed plan, not enough being left for house lots." Miss Young was compelled to give way to progress, compensated by the construction of a new barn across the new street. William R. Cheves supplied road materials free to the City from his High Street quarry. 5

And so the various sectors attempted to accommodate and mitigate the industry that might bring prosperity and modern improvements to the North Cape.

1. Photographs collected in "Pictures from the Past" by the Lanesville Community Center.
2. Gloucester Daily Times, April 16, 1894.
3. Edith A. Stevens et al. vs. Rockport Granite Company, 1911 and 1914.
4. Gloucester Daily Times, August 8, 1894.
5. Gloucester Daily Times, October 13, 1890; March 3, May 9, and June 25, 1898.

Thursday, April 13, 2017


The Granite Industry, Part 2 of 6
Prior to 1800 granite was available only for the roughest or the most luxurious building purposes in Massachusetts. With little or no shaping required fieldstone contributed to boundary walls, sheep enclosures, and house foundations. Fine granite structures like King's Chapel in Boston (1749) were constructed laboriously, that is, expensively, by splitting boulders with fire and smoothing the surfaces with hammers.
A boulder partially drilled and split for dimension stone1
The invention of drilling and splitting methods popularized granite as a durable building material. Applications grew rapidly through the nineteenth century. Above-ground boulders were the easiest source of stone. Rows of round holes were drilled several inches deep by rotating the square drill between hammer blows. Wedges tapped in between pairs of shims ("plugs and feathers") could split massive stones quickly and cleanly.

Round-hole plug and feathers1
In a variation of this technique slots were made by a cape chisel and the splitting accomplished by flat wedges.
Boulder drilled for splitting by flat wedges, Halibut Point
Martin Ray photo
Cape chisel1
Boulder fields and exposed ledges close to the shoreline made commercial granite works possible on Cape Ann from an early stage in the industry. In 1823 Nehemiah Knowlton cut 500 tons of stone near Pigeon Cove. Quarrying operations proliferated along the coast over the next few decades. Building stone was shipped as far away as San Francisco in 1852 and paving blocks to New Orleans in 1857. About this time the first steam engines for blasting and pumping appeared, making below-ground quarrying practical.2
Splitting high-quality stone from a deep quarry3
Incremental advances in technology proceeded on many fronts to enable commercial quarrying and the teams of men who worked there. Gunpowder was adapted to the purpose of loosening massive blocks for further cutting into dimension stone. Blasting caps first with fuses, then by electrical detonation, introduced a more reliable way to fire the charge. Increasingly powerful pumps kept up with water infiltration as the quarries went hundreds of feet down into the highest quality deposits of granite.
Hand-powered derrick, Halibut Point
Sandy Bay Historical Society photo
The celebration of nationhood in the Bunker Hill Monument proposal gave occasion to ingenious developments in hoisting machinery by Solomon Willard in the 1820s. His inventions and advances in derrick design formed the basis for apparatus used throughout the century in the largest quarries as well as the small-scale 'motions' operated by independents. The 'mast' and 'boom' terminology suggests that rigging concepts derived from maritime experience which was plentiful on Cape Ann.

Steam-powered derricks provided the muscle and reach for a broad variety of quarry jobs in addition to hoisting granite blocks, moving workers, equipment and buckets of debris around the site. Underneath a web of stabilizing cables radiating from the guy plate at the top of the mast the boom rotated in a full circle. Industry historian Paul Wood notes that in Barre Vermont "derrick sticks" made of Douglas fir up to four feet in diameter and up to a hundred and fifteen feet long were brought in from Oregon and Washington on three forty-foot flatcars.4
Powered derrick rotating on bull wheel, using chain and stone dogs
Blood Ledge Quarry, Lanesville, 1917
Sandy Bay Historical Society photo
The Rockport Granite Company introduced the first steam drill to Cape Ann in 1883 to revolutionize quarrying operations. Pneumatic drills began replacing them by the end of the century. Compressed air could be transmitted more conveniently and safely through pipes and hoses, and it could be easily subdivided for use by many tools and machines. The energy came from coal-fired turbines in a central power house.
Guy boom derricks at the Babson Farm Quarry, Halibut Point c. 1909
Charles Cleaves photo, Sandy Bay Historical Society
The disposal of undesirable stone challenges the efficiency and economy of quarry operators. Ideally it can be processed and sold as rip-rap or crushed rock. It may have to be put aside in inconvenient piles or transferred by rail lines within the site.
Blondin, Bay View quarry
Richard Lewis postcard collection, Annisquam Historical Society
Grout could also be removed by a blondin, an aerial cableway that carried a suspended grout box for dumping at a distant grout pile. The tower and cable device was named for French daredevil Charles Blondin who crossed Niagara Falls Gorge by tightrope in 1859.
Surfacing machine, Pigeon Cove quarry
Underwood stereograph, Cape Ann Museum
Even-grained stone lent itself, in skilled hands and operations, to useful quarry manufactures. Shaping and finishing tools that may have been developed for rendering softer stones into useful or beautiful purposes, required advances in metallurgy, design and technique for granite applications. The bush hammer patented in 1828 incorporated removable blades or fixed points on each side of the head to achieve flat surfacing by repeated blows—the greater the number of cuts the finer the dressing of the stone. Eventually the principle was extended to pneumatic surfacing machines attached to the end of a sliding horizontal bar or mounted on a trolley.
Advances in electrical engineering brought the granite industry into the modern era with lighter, more versatile tools and equipment. Power could be obtained more favorably from public utilities and dispersed to motors large and small throughout the facility. Machines for fine work came into play. Electric lighting improved visibility within the sheds, under overcast skies, and on short winter days.
Carved and polished capital of column for Winters National Bank, Dayton Ohio
Rockport Granite Company photo c. 1920
Sandy Bay Historical Society
The cumulative effect of technology was to multiply the productive capacity of granite producers and artisans at all levels, with desirable potentials to individual workers, corporations and the broad economy. Technology also added to troubling aspects of 'progress,' tradeoffs of life in modern society that we will consider in the next essay.
1. Photos from the website Stone Structures of Northeastern United States.
2. Lemuel Gott, History of Rockport, 1888.
3. Photo from James J. Tobin, "Granite Street Construction," The Granite Paving Block Manufacturers Association of the United States, 1925, courtesy of Baker Library Historical Collections, Harvard University.
4. Paul Wood, "Tools and Machinery of the Granite Industry, Parts I-IV," The Chronicle of the Early American Industries Association, 2006-7.