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The Illinois Stone and Building Industry, 1886


Excerpts from

Mineral Resources of the United States, Calendar Year 1886
David T. Day, Chief of Division of Mining Statistics and Technology
Department of the Interior, United States Geological Survey
Government Printing Office, Washington, D. C., 1887.


Excerpts from the chapter on Structural Materials, by William C. Day.

"The year 1886 opened with encouraging prospects for the building industry generally throughout the country, but scarcely were active operations fairly under way when the widely-spread labor disturbances which have made the year memorable began, making themselves felt in a number of the largest cities, both in the east and west. As soon as the labor troubles were inaugurated, many building enterprises were abandoned, and many more were postponed until the differences between labor and capital should be smoothed over. The building operations which were carried on during the period of disturbance were in most cases attended by small margins of profit to all concerned, and in some instances by disaster to contractors and to those who supplied material. Business was dull for all branches of trade connected with the building industry; demand for material was low and irregular, and values fell off quite considerably.

"This period of general depression was, however, followed by one of the greatest activity, and while it is true that many building enterprises contemplated at the beginning of the year were abandoned and not taken up again in 1886, still the fact remains that at the close of the year the showing made by the principal cities of the country was a large increase in the amount of building done, as compared with 1885.

"The kind of buildings most extensively erected during this period of activity consisted of residences, the demand for which, in view of our rapidly increasing population, is naturally at all times imperative.

"Only a few cities show positive evidence to the effect that building operations for the entire year were curtailed owing to the influence of labor troubles, although, of course, the frequently-propounded question, "What would have been the amount and value of building done in 1886 had there been no serious interruption?" is one which no one can satisfactorily answer."

Chicago, Illinois: "For foundations and ordinary work (in Chicago, Illinois) Joliet and Lemont, Illinois, limestone is used; for ornamental work the following are used: Brown sandstone from Connecticut; red sandstone from Long Meadow, Massachusetts, sandstones of all kinds from different sources in Ohio, the Lake Superior region, and, to a less degree and quite recently, from Colorado. Bedford, Indiana, limestone is quite popular. Georgia marble is being introduced with great satisfaction, particularly the pinkish-gray variety. Granite from Maine, Missouri, and Minnesota is largely used.

"Brick of all kinds is used in enormous quantities; ornamental materials in general are extensively indulged in.

"A great variety of roofing materials is employed, particularly for flat roofs; for steep roofs, slate and tile are liberally used, with, however, considerable opposition to tile from architects. "

Limestone and Marble - Production: "Very few strikes on the part of workmen in the quarries of important districts have been reported as occurring during 1886, but a number of the largest quarry regions of Ohio, Indiana, Missouri, Illinois, and Wisconsin experienced considerable loss in trade owing to the strikes in Saint Louis, Cincinnati, Chicago, and Milwaukee."

"As Ohio stood second in production of limestone in 1880, Illinois taking first place with a production of 13,013,139 cubic feet, a correspondingly large gain may be inferred for other States producing similar material.

"The product of the Joliet (Illinois) quarry district for 1886, including 18 quarries, is estimated to be, in round numbers, 5,340,000 cubic feet, while that of the Lemont quarry region reaches 1,200,000. In view of the fact that labor disturbances very seriously affected these regions these figures are probably decidedly below what might justly be expected for the coming year, although this production is believed to be very slightly, if at all, in advance of that of 1885, when local labor trouble is said to have curtailed the output. The value of the product of the Joliet and Lemont regions is estimated to be $800,000."

New discoveries and developments of common limestone: "The limestone of Joliet (Illinois) quarry region has until the last year been recognized as being in general unfit for use as a flux in blast furnaces. The discovery in this region, during 1886, of a bed of quite pure limestone, well suited for use as a flux, is therefore of particular interest. The location of this newly discovered bed is at Gravel Bank about 10 miles below Joliet. The following analysis shows the composition of the stone."

Analysis of limestone from Gravel Banks, near Joliet, Illinois

Analysis of limestone from Gravel Banks, near Joliet, Illinois.

"The use of this stone as a flux in this region is said to be interfering decidedly with the shipment of limestone to this locality from Indiana."

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