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.

Sources
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

Technology

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.
 
Sources
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.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Granite

The Granite Industry, Part 1 of 6
 
By exposing a window into the rocky crust of the earth, the actions of ocean, glaciers, and industry have made Halibut Point fascinating to geologists and casual visitors alike. Who can resist the sense of titanic forces composing the ground we stand on?

The Babson Farm Quarry, Halibut Point
For all this to be possible requires an immense story over a span of time that we can enumerate but not comprehend. In similar terms we regard the longevity of stone itself.

On Cape Ann, if it's stone, it's granite. The granite solidified deep in the earth's crust from melted minerals. It was gradually brought to the surface over hundreds of millions of years by a combination of (1) the erosion away of miles-thick stone crust above it, and (2) the drifting, collision, and subduction of entire continents over the same molten core from which the granite, as well as other igneous stones, was forged. The field of geology endeavors to explain why various types of stone exist and why granite predominates here almost exclusively. *

Sheets of granite along the Halibut Point shoreline
Man's utilization of granite on Cape Ann began with the accessible boulders sitting above ground, relatively easy to split and move for local building purposes. Commercial potential expanded with the improvement of tools in the nineteenth century, with the exploitation of exposed ledges, and with the capability to ship bulky cargos over water. These conditions existed at many places along the shoreline. Natural sheeting and jointing made work easier but over-exposure to sunlight, frost, and wave forces could compromise the strength of the stone.

Halibut Point ledges drilled to produce dimension stone
When flat, durable paving stones began to replace rounded cobblestones on city streets in the 1840s, Cape Ann was in a good position to meet the market. Small-scale operators cut blocks from ledges, divided them into paving units, and carted them to protected shipping points.

Natural jointing, supplemented by drilling at the quarry
Cape Ann granite formed under tremendous heat and pressure miles below the earth's surface. Relatively recently it experienced glaciations with the crush of two thousand feet of ice. As these weights were relieved by erosion and climate change the compressed stone expanded upward, cleaving into horizontal layers. Tectonic movements like continental drift and earthquakes added further joints along lines of vertical shearing.
 
Quarrymen developed the ability to drill and blast downward in quest of larger pieces of useful stone. The natural fractures facilitated removal of material for certain dimensions and purposes. But to obtain massive blocks of high quality granite they usually had to excavate at least twenty or thirty feet in depth.

At its best granite features straight, consistent grain desirable for strength and workability. Cape Ann granite's relatively high quartz content and large crystal size - the result of a long, slow cooling of the magma deep in the earth - impart great resistance to compression and abrasion, the forces of street traffic. These qualities make it less ideal for monument carvers who prefer fine-grained stone. And Cape Ann granite is not economical for the sawing and hydraulic splitting operations of today's mass-produced, softer curbstone. Granite deposits may be chemically similar but vary in their structure because circumstances gave them greater or lesser time to form crystals.

A felsic dike revealed in the quarry wall
Silica, the predominant element, unites with oxygen, aluminum, potassium and sodium to form quartz, feldspars and mica minerals that characterize granite. Many factors relating to source material, reactivity and temperature govern these processes. Calcium and metals such as iron and magnesium prevalent at the earth's core with higher melting points, define the composition of other igneous rocks. If added in to granitic magma they create 'hybridizations' or 'impurities' that make mineralogy interesting. 

Exotic elements may intrude either while the rock is still plastic (warm) or through a fracture in solidified stone. A noticeable example exists on the western wall of the Babson Farm Quarry, where a dark gray band contrasts with its surrounds. Both are felsic granite, meaning feldspar-based, with traces of other minerals accounting for color differences. The intrusion of the thin zone of secondary magma into the already-cooled granite meant that it crystallized fairly quickly, resulting in its finer-grained texture.

In a 1920s brochure the Rockport Granite Company described its product as The King of Rocks resembling in composition "the Egyptian granite of which the ancient obelisks and sarcophagi were built. It is strong beyond all possible requirements..." The company offered various shades of gray; 'sea green' especially beautiful in polished finish; and 'Moose A Bec Red' from its quarry in Jonesport, Maine. It also supplied rusty shades stained by dissolved iron running through joints in the stone. "Unlike most seam face granites, the color runs deep into the stone and it can therefore be used for headers, sills, steps, etc. as well as for ashlar surfaces."
The Luxor Obelisk, Paris 2016
Ancient Egyptian rulers desiring the most impressive and permanent monuments directed obelisks of granite weighing up to 120 tons. Three millennia later the inscriptions are still legible. How they were able to quarry, transport, carve and erect these enormous monoliths stupefies modern minds. But aiming at immortality, they chose the best material. 

* Dr. Martin E. Ross provides useful explanations and field guides in Cape Ann, Its Physical and Environmental Geology, 2015.
_____

For another glimpse of the geologic complexities of Cape Ann see online:
THE CAPE ANN PLUTONIC SUITE: A FIELD TRIP FOR PETROLOGY CLASSES,by John B. Brady, Smith College, and John T. Cheney, Amherst College