Logo Picture Left SideLogo Picture Right SideLogo Text at Center
Home > Search > Site Map > California > The California Stone and Building Industry in 1885

The California Stone and Building Industry in 1885

Excerpts from

Mineral Resources of the United States, Calendar Year 1885
David T. Day, Geologist, Department of the Interior, United States Geological Survey
Government Printing Office, Washington, D. C., 1887.


Excerpts from the chapters on 1) "Structural Materials," by H. S. Sproull; and 2) "Abrasive Materials:"

"From a few sections of the country reports indicate some falling off in the production of structural materials, but generally there has been a gain for standard descriptions, and occasionally of very decided character. The losses appear to be due to local influences alone, having no further bearing, while the increase may be accepted as a fair reflection from the entire country. The prime factor, leading to a fuller production, was the low ruling cost of material, which presented an attraction for consumption, and led to larger investments in real estate improvements, especially in the larger cities and their suburbs. Some increase in public works and improvements has opened the outlet still wider, and promises additional expansion. Notwithstanding the considerable increase in quantity of material produced in 1885, the value only exceeded that of 1884 in a few instances, and in some cases ran rather behind, as the result of the lower values brought about by various influences, as will be explained farther on. The profits of the manufacturing interest have naturally become somewhat curtailed, yet rarely to a serious extent, and there is very universal testimony to warrant the assertion that no attempt has been made to balance the shrinkage in price by lowering the grade of the product; but, on the contrary, every reasonable effort was put forth to enhance the quality and attractions as an additional stimulant to consumption."

Pacific coast:

"Mr. Yale furnishes the following:

"The Pacific division of the continent abounds in limestone, there being enough produced in all the States and Territories of the West for local consumption. At one time there was thought to be but little stone of this kind of Oregon and in Washington Territory, but more careful search has brought to light an abundance of it there, and these regions have for the past two years been making enough lime for their own use, and have begun to ship it to California, the most of that exported coming from the vicinity of Puget sound.

"California is prolific in limestone of every variety and of the best quality. The most extensive belt of this stone stretches north and south along the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada for a distance of nearly 150 miles, reaching from Mariposa county to Butte. It varies from a quarter of a mile to 3 miles in width, the rock near its southerly end, in the vicinity of Columbia, consisting of marble of good quality, and easily quarried. From 60 to 80 miles farther west a metamorphic limestone occurs in the Coast Range mountains, whence are obtained the supplies for the seaboard counties, the inland counties being supplied from the foothill belt, large quantities from the kilns there being also shipped to San Francisco. In El Dorado county, at Alabaster Cave, on this belt, are located the Alabaster lime works, consisting of a "Monitor" kiln capable of burning 3,000 barrels per month. The lime made is noted for its purity of whiteness, and is much used for the purification of gas. The extensive kilns erected a few years ago near Clipper Gap, Placer county, were purchased soon after by the H. T. Holmes Company, owners of the Alabaster works, and have since remained closed.

"The most of the lime in the Coast Range is burnt near the towns of Santa Cruz and Felton, Santa Cruz county, where several companies have put up large works, facilities for manufacture and shipping being extremely good there. The rock is abundant, of the best kind, and easily quarried. Wood and water are plentiful and transportation to San Francisco can be had by either water or rail.

"The three large companies operating here each make between 40,000 and 50,000 barrels of lime per year. Each gives employment the year round to about 40 men, wood choppers and teamsters included, at wages of $1.50 per day, though much of the work is done on contract. During the past two years lime burning has been carried on more generally over the State than was formerly the case, much having been burnt of late in the southern counties, where very little was made previously, owing to the limited demand, and in most localities, a scarcity of fuel. With the rapid increase in population of that section of the State, this industry has reached considerable proportions, there being no lack of good limestone there.

"Several years ago the Hydrocarbon works, at Colton, San Bernardino county, began using crude petroleum as a fuel for burning lime. Although they have not abandoned its use, the experiment has not proved entirely satisfactory, owing to the great cost of this substance. Whether it can continue to be used with economy, the company has not yet determined, though the conditions favoring its employment are here as good as can be hoped for in the State, crude petroleum being cheap, but other fuel costly.

The production of lime in California amounted last year to about 220,000 barrels. The receipts at San Francisco were 160,000 barrels. Formerly some small lots of lime were exported from California to Oregon, Washington Territory and the Sandwich Islands. None, however, is sent away at present, these countries all making what they require at home. That made in the Sandwich Islands is burnt from coral. Though lacking in strength, this lime is of fair quality. The price of lime in San Francisco is lower at present than ever before, not exceeding $1.50 per barrel."

Abrasive Materials - Buhrstones:

"The nearest approach to the hard French buhrstones is a stone occurring on an eminence known as Little Butte, in the Owen’s River valley, Inyo county, California. It is hard, brecciated, and very much like the best French stone. The quantity has not been ascertained, but appears to be considerable. Although none of this material has been mined there is no doubt of its value for milling purposes, and it will probably be used in the future. In Ulster county, New York, the so-called Esopus stone has gained a definite footing as a substitute for buhrstone, for millstones for grinding chemicals and other materials except wheat. The production of this stone in 1885 is estimated at a value of $90,000. This, together with a less important production of Cocalico stone in Lancaster county, Pennsylvania, is the only domestic material used for millstones. The total value of all domestic millstones did not exceed $100,000 in 1885. The French millstones are seldom imported as such, but the stone is shipped in comparatively small pieces which are then dressed to a uniform size and carefully fitted together, making one millstone of the ordinary form. There is a continued decrease in the imports, due to the use of the roller process in flour mills."

Pumice Stone:

"There was little change in the slight production of pumice stone near Lake Merced, a few miles from San Francisco, California. The production did not exceed 70 tons. The greater part of the pumice stone used for polishing wood surfaces, etc., is imported, according to the following table:

Image of table depicting Pumice stone imported and entered for consumption in US 1871 - 1885


"Pumice stone imported and entered for consumption in the United States, 1871 to 1885, inclusive."

[Top of Page]