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Illinois - 1894 Stone Industry


"Sixteenth Annual Report of the United States Geological Survey,
Part IV.-Mineral Resources of the United States, 1894,
Nonmetallic Products

Excerpts from the chapter on "Stone," by William C. Day.

(Click here if you wish to read the entire chapter on "Stone.")


The Illinois Sandstone Industry in the Mid-1890s

Illinois.-This State, while very prominent for its limestone output, has not as yet done much in the way of quarrying sandstone, although operations have been carried on in Henry Fulton, Whiteside, Union, Knox, Lee, and Clay counties.

The Illinois Limestone Industry in the Mid-1890s

Illinois.-The limestone interests of this State are very large and important.  The total value of the output in 1894 was $2,555,952.  Of this amount $2,167,979 worth was used for building purposes.  More than half of the product comes from Cook and Will counties, while the rest is distributed among the following counties:  Adams, Jersey, Madison, Hardin, Kane, Pike, Kankakee, Hancock, St. Clair, Winnebago, Rock Island, Henderson, Dupage, Randolph, Union, Whiteside, Monroe, Ogle, Stephenson, Kendall, Jo Daviess, McHenry, Greene, and Lasalle.

The following description of the Lemont and Joliet stone is taken from the writer's report in Mineral Resources for 1889-90:

The operations in Cook and Will counties, on account of their magnitude, the general excellence of the stone produced, and the ease of quarrying and working out, deserve special mention.  The region embraced by these two counties is known generally as the Joliet region.  It includes territory from about 5 miles south of the city and running along the valley of the Illinois River.  Most of the quarries are situated on the banks of either the river or the canal.  The stone exists in layers at the surface, varying from 1 inch to 3 inches in thickness, and growing in thickness with the increasing depth, until at about 25 feet it is found of a thickness varying from 15 to 20 inches.  It is, however, rarely quarried below the 25-foot level, owing to the expense of getting it out and dressing it, since at that depth it is much harder, although the quality of the stone is superior to that in the upper levels.  At the depth of 25 feet the inflow of water materially adds to the expense of quarrying.  The stone found at or near the surface is almost valueless and is almost entirely thrown away in stripping the quarry.  The next two-fifths furnish stone of sufficiently good quality to be used for riprap, rubble, sidewalks, and curbing.  The last two-fifths contain the best stone, namely, that used for building.  It is generally of a bluish-gray color.  The exposed stone is of a yellowish color, from the effects of the exposure to the atmosphere.  It is also true that most of the Joliet stone turns more or less yellow upon exposure.  The beds are divided vertically by seams occurring at somewhat irregular intervals of from 12 to 50 feet, and continue you with quite smooth faces for long distances, and also by a second set of seams running nearly at right angles with the first, but continuous only between main joints, and occurring at very irregular intervals.  This structure renders the rock very easily quarried and obtainable in blocks of almost any required lateral dimensions.  The stone is easily worked into required shapes, and takes a fine, smooth finish, and is susceptible of being readily planed.  This forms a very rapid and cheap method of finishing flagging stones and preparing such as are to receive a smooth finish on the polishing bed.  Enormous quantities of flagging stone are taken out, most of which goes into Chicago; but business with other cities is decidedly on the increase.  The finest varieties are readily produced in forms which are capable of being turned out by lathes.

The following is an analysis of Cook County limestone:

Analysis of Cook County, Ill., limestone.


Per cent.

Silica 26.08
Alumina and oxide of iron 6.57
Carbonate of lime 46.90
Carbonate of magnesia 14.19
Water 6.26
Total 100.00

The crushing strength of this stone is 16,017 pounds to the square inch; specific gravity, 2.512.  The stone obtained in the vicinity of the towns of Sterling, Morrison, Fulton, Cordova, and Port Huron is largely burned into lime.  This is true of much of the stone along the Mississippi River.  The best grades of Alton stone become whiter upon exposure to the air, and some of it that has stood in buildings for twenty to twenty-five years has become almost perfectly white.  The quarry at the Chester (Illinois) State prison is an immense bluff about 200 feet in height.  It has been worked for only the past two or three years and is now turning out fine stone.  All work is done by the convicts.

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