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The Marble-Workers' Manual

Translated from the French


To make this manual complete for the use of American Marble-workers, it only remains for us to give some account of the Marbles of the United States.

Our country is rich in Marbles, but it is only in the older States that quarries have been opened or worked to any great extent. The few explorations that have been made, however, leave no doubt that inexhaustible stores of the finest qualities are packed away within the mountains and in ledges that are easily accessible. The wise policy of most of our States has caused early geological surveys to be made, and it is through their medium that the discovery of new varieties and abundant supplies will doubtless be made quite as fast as there is a demand for them.

But while none doubt the plentiful quantity of our native Marbles, there has been much skepticism as to their quality. We sent no specimens, good or bad, to the Great London Exhibition, and the world has been obliged to judge our resources in this respect entirely by our buildings. Any bad impression that has gone forth is due not so much to the bad quality of the material itself, as to the neglect of care on the part of builders and of those entrusted with the duty of selecting Marble for our public edifices. The extraordinary representations of interested parties have foisted many miserable specimens into use. The haste of contractors has put into buildings a good many very unworthy blocks from quarries that easily might have furnished plenty of unexceptional ones. The elementary principle very often has been neglected-that regard should be had in laying up stones, that are to bear much pressure, to the original bedding of the stone. Hence blocks which, if placed differently, would have lasted for centuries, already, after standing at right angles to their natural position but a few years, are scaling off and crumbling on their surfaces. Then it would seem as if some who have chosen the materials for our marble fronts were colorblind. Certainly nothing can look more slovenly than some patchwork fronts we are obliged to endure the sight of first a snowy white block, next a bluish one, then one of a creamy yellow, and then one so full of fissures that the dirt lodged in it gives an appearance of some very undesirable veined variety. A slight knowledge of the geological habits of Marble would have saved many public blunders and prevented many costly mistakes. The limestone ledges which rise in smooth bleached perpendicular walls, that give no hold to lichens, and are not discolored by the solution of any of their component parts, must furnish the Marbles that will bear the weather well. While those onto which rivers have cut deep channels, or which standing inland bear deep seams across their face, or which have to be dug from under the original surface of the earth, and over which much soil has accumulated, give in their very position the strongest evidence that they cannot long endure.

As we have said, few of the States or territories have been thoroughly or even casually surveyed with reference to their wealth in building materials. Yet new as our country is, and busy as our geologists have been in indicating the enterprizes which would more immediately reward industry and capital, we have already a long list of localities prolific in available Marbles.

Maine bounds as no other State does in limestones. Some from the vicinity of Thomaston admit a fine polish. They are the blue, the clouded, the veined, and an elegant white dolomite for monuments. About Union and Machias some breccias are obtained.

Vermont is the Marble State, and this material will prove one of its most fruitful sources of wealth. Fine white Marble, which can be obtained in large cakes, is found along the base of the Green Mountains, for fifty miles above and below Rutland. At West Rutland statuary Marble is quarried that is surpassed by none in the world. Our own sculptors have availed themselves of it to some extent, and some orders for it from Italian sculptors at Rome have been filled. It is said to be a finer grain, to work more easily than the foreign, and not to crumble so badly under the chisel. At this same locality is spotted grey Marble, much used for mantels. A beautiful dark-colored article is got at Pittsford. From Shoreham and other points along Lake Champlain, black Marble is obtained. At our New York Crystal Palace Exhibition a shell marble from Vermont, with bright red spots, attracted much attention-but it has not been worked. A serpentine recently discovered in Roxbury promises to replace the exhausted quarries of Europe. It very closely resembles the European verd antique, but where the latter has carbonate of lime, the former has carbonate of magnesia. According to Dr. Jackson, ours has a superior out-of-door durability, and longer resists decomposition from the atmosphere, from fire, and from acids. It offers no hold to moss. It cuts hard, but is sawn more easily. When polished it is a rich and beautiful green, veined with white and mottled. The quarries of this one State produce over a million dollars annually.

Massachusetts abounds in limestones, free enough from fissure, and compact enough to admit a medium polish. Berkshire county is especially rich in such-so much so indeed that scarcely an effort has to be made to obtain them elsewhere in the State. It was hoped that the bed in Stoneham, (Middlesex County,) would furnish even the rare variety used in statuary, and small specimens of it compare favorably with the Carrara. But it is so full of fissures that blocks can seldom be obtained. The best Berkshires are of a snowy white, free from magnesia, and for a primary Marble are elegant. Occasionally, however, they are clouded and frequently are grey. The North Adams Marble is white and pure, but a little too crystaline. That of New Ashford is of a finer grain. The New York City Hall was built of the West Stockbridge Marble, and a part of the Boston State House is from the same locality. From Sheffield came the Girard College pillars. The Lee Marble is just now most prominently before the public-it being the material employed in building the extension of the Capitol at Washington. At Great Barrington is a beautiful clouded Marble, well adapted for mantels and jambs, but owing to its 40 per cent of magnesia, is very liable to break. Prof. Hitchcock finds in this vicinity a flexible marble-which, if properly wet, bends like a lath-a singular property, but not quite unknown abroad; as several tables of elastic Marble were preserved and exhibited in the house of Prince Borghese, of Rome, as great curiosities. There is a beautiful serpentine found at Lynnfield, but it is too soft. Beds of steatite, hardened by quartz or serpentine, are common too in Massachusetts. Several houses with steatite fronts have lately been erected in New York and Brooklyn-all which were furnished, however, from Middlefield, Vt. This hardened steatite will very probably come into common use hereafter.

Rhode Island has some Marbles, but the quarries are little worked.

Connecticut forty years ago furnished the rarest and most beautiful of verd antiques. For in-door work it was admirably fitted; but exposed, as for grave-stones and monuments, it soon parted with its polish and grew dull. Though inexhaustible, the increasing expense of working it has caused it to be neglected.

Of the abundance of Marble in New York, some idea may be gained when it is stated that the State geologists announce it as present in twenty-five counties of the State. Most of the white variety is like that of Massachusetts-too highly granular and too slightly coherent to sustain heavy pressure or to endure our variable climate.

In Clinton County, near Plattsburg, a jet black Marble is found. Columbia county produces a Dolomite, which is much esteemed. Prof. Hitchcock thinks that if worked it might yield as fair results as the beds of Egremont. Near Hudson, in Becraft's Mountain, a beautiful grey with a tint of red is found, which resembles the Peak of Derbyshire Marble. It has been worked a little.

Dutchess produces a fine white like the Lee; and also a clouded Marble which is reported durable. Essex has a verde antique-a limestone through which green serpentine is diffused. Franklin County abounds in the white primitive. Jefferson and St. Lawrence, though very little explored, show some. In Lewis a dark serpentine, valuable for ornamental purposes, is found. The New York (Kingsbridge) limestone crumbles too easily for building purposes. Niagara has, near Lockport, a variegated, reddish-brown Marble, which is full of organic remains, and is of great beauty. It has been used somewhat for interiors-Oneida has the Trenton limestone, which finishes black and also some greys. Onondaga has a grey crinoidal limestone, which affords a Marble scarcely excelled by any of the sort in the country for durability, beauty, and the fineness of its polish. None of the several localities found in Orange County are worked. Putnam has both white and colored Marbles, and a serpentine that takes a good polish. Of the black Marble, rare in Europe, yet of which some old Spanish palaces were built, Mather says there is enough sound and free from cracks in Clinton County to supply the world. Rockland has a dove-colored and a verd antique that takes a high polish. Ulster has, in the vicinity of Rondout and Kingston, several beds of a limestone which is susceptible of high polish, that will some day turn out valuable black and dark colored Marbles. But the black Marbles of Glen Falls, Warren County, extensively in use for mantels, take an unrivalled polish. Though the supply is inexhaustible, this article grows more and more costly in the market, owing to the increased difficulty of getting it out. There are, however, two hundred and seventy-five saws now running in the mills of that village. Warren County possesses, too, some verd antique, some fine grey Marble, and some veined like the Egyptian; except that the veins are white and grey where the Egyptian is yellow. It is, perhaps, more difficult to work than the imported. Washington County has a good clouded article. Westchester abounds in the Dolomite. Fair specimens may be seen in the New York Custom House, the Brooklyn Exchange, the front of Stewart's store, of the St. Nicholas Hotel, and the store on the southwest corner of Broadway and Warren streets in New York. Marbles of inferior importance and found (grey) in Albany, (black) in Schoharie, and in Otsego, Saratoga, Seneca, and Wayne.

Pennsylvania has many quarries. The Marble so much used in Philadelphia is from Chester County.

Maryland produces a white from her "alum limestone;" and at the foot of the Blue Ridge and on the Potomac banks a beautiful pudding-stone polished specimens of which may be found in the pillars of the House of Representatives at Washington. The colors are very striking.

There is a good deal of Marble in Virginia, but it has been little quarried.

Marble is found in Laurens and Spartanburg Districts of South Carolina.

Some quarries have been worked in Cherokee Co., Georgia.

Beautiful varieties exit in Alabama, near the heads of the rivers, and particularly on the Cahawba and Talladega County. Some of these are buff colored and filled with organic remains; some are white and crystalline, and some black. In Coosa County fine statuary Marble is said to be found. From this locality most of the tombstones and furniture Marble used in the Southern part of the State are bought.

In Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois little pains have yet been taken to develop the mineral building materials.

Kentucky produces an inferior Marble, which, though susceptible of a high polish, is too brittle for heavy use.

Tennessee contains several beautiful varieties. A variegated one found near Nashville, lately brought to light, is likely to come into the New York market.

Wisconsin, in its northern part, has Marbles whose prevailing color is light pink, traversed by veins of deep red. It has others of blue and dove color handsomely veined; but none of them are worked to any great extent.

Veined and crystalline Marbles are found in Missouri. Arkansas is well supplied. Iowa is not destitute of the less valuable variety. Marble has been found in Marin County, and in some other parts of California. In several States which we have not named the native Marbles have been employed for building purposes, for tombstones, &c.; but in our list we have embraced the most important localities and the varieties best known.

But notwithstanding the abundance of our home supply, very much of that used for interior ornamentation is imported. According to the Report of Secretary Guthrie, the value of the unmanufactured Marble of foreign production imported to this country during the year ending June, 1855, was $232,385.-From this item we have only to deduct $944, the value of the foreign unmanufactured Marble exported by us during the same time, to discover just how great was our consumption of the foreign Marbles. How much of our own Marble has gone abroad we cannot say-the item not having been separately reported.

This large importation of the article may be owing to three causes. For some purposes the foreign may be a better article, or if not better, it is better known. Then there is still some prejudice, perhaps, in favor of an imported material, on the part of the uninformed, to which dealers must cater. But there is a stronger reason than all in the fact that the lower rates of wages abroad enable the imported article to be furnished far cheaper than that of equal excellence which lies at our very doors. Thus when the Italian statuary Marble was selling in New York at $2.50 to $3.00 per cubic foot, that from Rutland, Vt., cost $4.50.-It is, more than anything else, a question of expense, whether foreign or domestic Marbles shall be used.-We get none finer abroad than we have at home. We have no need to send to Carrara for the capitals to our columns, nor to Ireland for black Marble, if we can afford to buy the best. And when capital and the inventive arts are more directed to the business of getting out and manufacturing Marble, it will doubtless seem as simple to send abroad for it as it would be to imitate our fathers, and bring tomb-stones ready made from Wales, and brick from Holland.

Our variable climate is very hard upon poor Marbles. Our hard rains and severe frosts are sure to search out their fissures and flaws, and from them begin their slow work of disintegration. Many Marbles, indeed, when properly polished, will answer for slabs to face or veneer brick houses with, which in the block would not answer at all.

In a late number of Silliman's Journal, Walter R. Johnson, Esq., details some suggestive observations upon the ability of different building materials to endure pressure, founded on experiments that have been recorded. Noticing that the Washington Monument at Baltimore, which was begun only in 1815, already exhibited fractures across whole blocks in it, he directs his special attention to the "alum limestone" of which it is built, and which is nearly allied to the Sing Sing Marble of which Grace Church in New York City is constructed. In conclusion, for purposes of comparison, he arranges the materials experimented on in the order of their relative value, as determined by their power to resist crushing.-

The "alum limestone" standing at 100
stockbridge marble stood at 96
italian 135
east chester (n.y.) 171
"white statuary " 199

"its true position," he says, "in the scale of strength among building stones, as proved by dr. page and mr. wyatt, is among the sandstones, not among granites, marbles, or compact limestones." Yet this is the material out of which the Washington National Monument is building, and of it, or of a still feebler Marble, as marked in the table, very many edifices have been erected, which their authors and architects flattered themselves were their enduring monuments.

When (in 1824) the American Museum was to be erected, in New York, so great was the prejudice against Marble, as a building material, that it was necessary to pardon a man at Sing Sing prison to get the contract closed. Now-and the fact shows how it has grown into popular favor-there are on Broadway, between the Bowling Green and Union Square, twenty-six Marble fronts; in Liberty Street, sixteen; in Cortlandt, Wall and Dey Streets, each five; in Maiden Lane, six; in Fulton, Vesey and Murray Streets, each seven; in Barclay Street, eight; in Chambers Street, ten; and in Warren Street, eighteen, besides as many others in many other streets throughout the city.

The last census (of 1850) does not distinguish between the Marble and the Stone Cutters; still it may aid somewhat in getting an idea of the extent to which Marble is wrought, if we annex the following table.


Maine 522
New Hampshire 365
Vermont 265
Massachusetts 2,320
Rhode Island 297
Connecticut 514
New York 3,443
New Jersey 219
Pennsylvania 2,114
Delaware 9
Maryland 381
District of Columbia 128
Virginia 427
North Carolina 32
South Carolina 75
Georgia 50
Florida 12
Alabama 52
Mississippi 4
Louisiana 71
Texas 4
Arkansas 24
Tennessee 151
Kentucky 226
Ohio 1,453
Michigan 64
Indiana 248
Illinois 204
Missouri 270
Iowa 69
Wisconsin 34
California 2
New Orleans 1
Oregon 2
Utah 24
Total 14,076

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