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NOTE: I have not included the entire text of the article as a lot of it is comprised of the two friends' conversation and allusions to other subjects than the quarries. If you are interested in a complete copy, feel free to contact me.
-- Peggy B. Perazzo


The Cape Ann Quarries

Harper's New Monthly Magazine


(Vol. LXX. No. 418, pg. 36)

The train for Cape Ann had left the Boston station, and was emerging from smutty railroad sidings and factories into regions where, beyond fields of broken creamy ice, spotted with dark haycocks, you could make out the line of pale blue sea. Anastasia was applying her face to the cold window-pane, whitened with frost and blackened with cinders, and was trying to make her enjoyment of the view predominate over a not unnatural dislike to the prospect of spending a long day alone upon what her best advisers considered a wild-goose chase.(Anastasia's friend appeared and joined her on her trip).

The ice-field and the blue sea and the snowy pastures, with their streaks of dark grass and rock, now began to assume the most charming appearance in Anastasia's eyes.." "You only said in the telegram, 'Rockport, Thursday, ten forty-five,'" she observed. "Of course I came. I love Cape Ann as much as you do, and perhaps I love you more than Cape Ann. But I can't help wondering why you chose this particular time.

"Your guess isn't such a bad one," said Anastasia; "it's the fashion now to say that the Pyramids were hills of rock once, and it's a hill of rock you are looking at. It bears an Egyptian name too, though it's not what the Pyramids were made of."

".'Did you never hear of Assounan, that wild town by the first Nile cataract?" said her friend. "It's odd to think that its Greek form, Syene, has been turned into a word so common on our Massachusetts ledges as syenite, which you and I are to hear twenty times to-day."

".'I thought our granite wasn't the real Upper Egyptian syenite," said she. "And I thought Quincy was the place for granite, and we are turning our backs upon Quincy."

"You're right.but our granite-what they call hornblende granite now-was for a long time called syenite, Preparing To Loadfor all that, so the books say, and the name isn't yet worn out. And we are going to a place where there is a great deal if it. Mr. Crosby says in his State Report that probably Cape Ann exists because of a long granite wall which begins at Natick and ends at Rockport."

"But what makes you come out to examine this particular granite wall?" said Bessy. "There's plenty more granite in eastern Massachusetts; for instance, the Blue Hills, where the Quincy quarries are..

".I've always wanted to know something about granite. You know the old saying that granite and ice are the principal natural products which we Massachusetts people export. To-day, I imagine, we shall see ice enough as well as granite.."

"The value of the product of the granite quarries of Massachusetts was nearly a million and a half dollars in 1875..There are only three agricultural products which are so valuable to our State. By-the-way, they put ice down in our State census as an agricultural product: that was worth rather over half a million in the same year.The list of mines, quarries, and so forth is edifying enough (in the State census). Sanding a SlabThe granite, of course, is far ahead of anything else there in the value of its product. But we have gold mines too-only they put "supposed" before them-and asbestos mines. There are ten acres of asbestos mines in Massachusetts."

"The granite and ice are more characteristic," said Bessy. "Some people think that we all of us carry them with us when ever we leave Massachusetts-that we are as cold as one and as hard as the other."

".granite is not always so hard, either. Don't you know it was melted, to begin with? - all white hot, flowing out of the centre of the earth?

"Some geologists think it was not," said Bessy ".It also, I hear, explodes sometimes in case of fire."

"Yes," said Anastasia, looking into her note-book. "That's because of the unequal expansion of the parts.Did you know, Bessy, that Mont Blanc was of granite, and the Aiguilles, which you admire is much?"

"There isn't anything of that sort at Rockport, is there?" said Bessy.

"No. I suppose these are the low, rounded hills, scantily covered with vegetation, which the 'Britannica' tells about."

"It was not too cold a day for them to enjoy the keen air, the hard road, and the constantly changing views of the rock and sea at their right, and of the little weather-stained houses tightly shut against the frost, with here and there boats hauled up into their brown gardens."

"They came before long to the works of the Rockport Company, with its vessels lying at the dock, its long breakwater of granite extending out into the sea, and its precipitous quarry on the landward side of the road, its irregular blocks recalling to Bessy the drawing she had supposed to represent a Pyramid. Five teams of oxen were standing about, and Anastasia informed her friend that she expected to find just such a team standing under a beautiful arch hereabouts.The travellers made some inquiries at the office of the company. They were taken into the depths of the quarry, where the dark rocks looked high and awful, with here and there cataracts of thick white icicles making them look darker. Here the steam-drill was at work,The Great Arch which makes in a day a hole twenty to thirty feet deep and two inches in diameter, and sometimes enables the quarrymen to loosen at one blast a mass of from five hundred to a thousand tons of granite. This great blast was the preliminary to the hand-drilling, which they could see going on busily in the quarry.

".Something oppressed her here, and she quite lost the happy tranquility which she had felt five minutes before, in the straggling country road among the peaceful winter gardens. She felt as if in those few minutes she had come out of the happy New England which she knew and loved.into the midst of some great workshop of nature outside human ways and human knowledge. Here were the dark rocks which they told her had lasted since the beginning of the world, and which had seen more frightful changes than Bessy could imagine. And here, at work among them, was a magical instrument, a giant made prisoner, who was fighting the rocks with another natural force even stronger than theirs. And if the workmen she saw were human beings, which her foolish fancy disposed her to doubt, was it human work which they were doing, the ancient healthful business for which Adam was set in the garden?."

"It doesn't seem fair or right At Work in the Great Quarrythat other people should have to bend their backs and smash their hands over this rough business so that we can have the fine granite buildings we're so proud of."

"I can't pretend to answer your hard questions," said Nancy; "but this I will say, that this business has improved since Christianity came.Do you know how the old Egyptians used to transport their great blocks of stone? They used oxen sometimes, just as the Rockport company do, but sometimes they used men...I think it's better to make steam and oxen do the heavy work, as they are doing here, and as they are beginning to do all the world over. The granite comes down to the shore on a steam railway at Bay View, I'm told."

"Their kind guide told them that the blocks of stone which the oxen hauled down from the Rockport quarry were either sent by rail from the Rockport station or shipped from the company's pier in their five vessels. 'Some of them are lying on the dock now,' he said, and turned away from the cliffs to point seaward. Whereupon our sight-seers turned too, and beheld the arch for which they had been looking, supporting the road they had just now followed, and framing a charming picture of tall masts and blue sea, with a fortunately placed team of oxen for its foreground.

".Some of the granite.was going as far as new Orleans, some of it to nearer cities. Had she ever noticed the differences which exist in the paving-stones which are used in different places? The Philadelphians, it seems, insist upon having especially long and fair stones; the New-Yorkers are not so exacting, though they share the same general ideas; and the Bostonians are discontented with any paving-stone which is not small and square, and cut with great accuracy. Much more Bessy heard, and many facts more important than these, about much larger blocks of stone, but the individuality of paving-stones was a new idea to her, and remained firmly fixed in her memory. She remembered having seen in a Mississippi River town all the paving-stones of the lower levee taken up carefully out of the reach of the spring floods, and she therefore took pleasure in thinking that these square-hewn countrymen of hers were to be treated with respect and consideration in the Southern towns where they were going. Another of her surprises was to hear that divers were at work under the vessel yonder on this very January day, getting out pieces of granite which had accidentally fallen into the harbor."

".Anastasia...(arranged to hire) a horse and carriage to take the two travellers to Bay View, the end of their journey.

"The change of their mode of travel, Chiselling The Lineand the dignity inherent in the back seat of what we New-Englanders call a carry-all, as well as the moral support afforded to them by the friendly though silent presence of their driver, exalted them a good deal in their estimation."

"'There's the Janesville quarry,' said their driver. 'That, and the Rockport, and the Pigeon Hill, and the Bay View, are the four principal companies on the Cape.'"

"'But there are others too, surely,' said Anastasia. 'We hardly pass a stone wall which is not of granite, and I am continually seeing derricks above the rocks.'"

"'Those are the smaller companies,' said the driver. 'Yes, there are a number of those.'"

"'I wonder,' said Bessy, 'that they don't build more houses here of granite.'"

"'I wonder,' said Anastasia, 'how long we Massachusetts people are to go on building wooden houses. Till the forests are all cut down, I suppose. I have abused my fondness for stone houses as an unpatriotic one, but it's not so unpatriotic, after all, to wish that the houses in my country may last as long as her hills.'"

"'The hills don't last so very long down here on the cape,' observed Bessy. 'The quarrying goes on too fast for that. But look! See that rocky village before us. It must be Bay View.'"

"The friends had been recommended to one of the workmen of the Cape Ann Company, who was kind enough to explain to them what was going on. The quarries, he told them, were at a little distance from the village, and the stone was sent down to the shore and the cutting and polishing shops in cars drawn by steam upon the company's railroad, the only railroad where steam is used in the Cape quarries. The visitors might have gone up on the train to see the quarrying. But being pressed for time, they chose rather to watch the different processes used in working the stone, from its entrance into the shops in a rough block, till it attains the astonishingly fine polish which the workmen are able to give it."

"The work was done near the water's edge in long wooden sheds, some of them open on one side, some of them with doors and windows of cotton cloth. The Derrick It was cold business, the workmen said, but there were stoves in some of the shops, and the men were not too cold to keep up an industrious chipping and hammering, nor to good-naturedly explain to the visitors some of the mysteries of their trade. They showed them how to chisel the line, how to point the stone down, and what were the differences between peen-hammers and bush-hammers. They took the bush-hammers out of their chests that the ladies might see the varieties with five, six, eight, and ten edges, which gave the granite the slightly lined or ridged appearance which they had often noticed. The point and chisel work interested them, chiefly in regard to its effects upon the workmen."

"'You must be always getting the stone into your eyes,' cried Bessy."

"'Yes, ma'am,' said the workman, composedly, 'but we don't mind that as much as the splinters of steel. Polishing a ColumnAll our points are of English steel, you see, and that's very bad when it gets into the eyes. But then plenty of the men have a great knack at getting it out; they are as good as any eye-doctor.'"

"'Do you use a camel'-hair pencil?' asked Anastasia."

"'No; we take a broom splint sometimes, or a penknife, or a pin-not the point, but the head. A pin isn't so good, though.'"

"As they talked, Nancy was watching the white figures in the dusty sunlight, their heads bent over their hammers, making pictures which Francois Millet, who knew what a working-man's life was, would have been glad to paint."

"'My trade isn't an easy one,' said she, 'but I think theirs is harder. At AnchorI wish I were that sort of workman. I mean I wish my work were as good and as direct as theirs.'"

"After a vain attempt to see the steam-cutter, they entered the polishing-shops. Granite is polished first with sand, then with emery, then with putty powder and felt. Some blocks are polished by a great machine called a Jenny Lind; others by sinister-looking arrangements called pendulums, which are supported from above and run backward and forward over the granite-a sight which terrified our two friends. The finest work is done by hand. The pride of the shop at present appeared to be centered in a great crown, which with a cross was to form part of some monument, and whose ornament would admit of none but hand-work."

"The granite took a beautiful polish, and in its finished state it became easy to see the differences in color and density which are significant to experts. All the Rockport granite which our friends had seen was gray or grayish-green. It differs in color from that of the Quincy quarries, which is gray too, but the travellers thought, of a lighter gray, and it differs from it in quality as well. There are different qualities of Cape granite too. The Maine granite, it appeared, is red."

"The afternoon was flying away, and the two strangers had scarcely the time for a walk upon the pier, where one or two colliers were lying. They passed these vessels, and stood upon the farthest and extreme point, with the quit winter sea about them, separating them from the rest of the world."

"'Come,' said Anastasia; 'let us see the scow in the little harbor; we must resign ourselves to looking at the steam-engine on board it, which we don't understand, rather than at the sea, which we think we do. We must go and inquire whether all granite is packed in wood and clamps, or only the pieces we see.'"

"This, it appeared, was the proper way of packing granite; and it was then hoisted on board ship by means of a steam-engine on the scow at which Nancy had been looking. Much of the stock, it seemed, was meant for the Baltimore Post-office; some of it, as at Rockport was going to New Orleans. But not as much as shipped in winter as at other seasons."

"While their horse was being harnessed the travellers warmed their cold hands in the office of the company, and asked all sorts of questions, which were kindly answered. The workmen were many of them foreign, it seemed; the quarrymen, Italian, French-Canadian, and Irish; the cutters, English, Scotch, Irish, and Americans. They were a good and peaceable set. Anastasia was told, and there was not a policeman in Bay View Village. So, when the carriage was ready and the two wrapped themselves up once more for their long drive, they had not only thanks but respect for the workmen who had been so good to them. Back they drove through the late afternoon, in which the country grew more and more beautiful; past the boats in the gardens, past the children skating in an old quarry-pit, past ice cascades and willows turned golden in the late daylight, and the faithful red velvet fruit which stays all winter long upon the bare sumac-trees. Here is the Rockport station again. Once more, they are in the train, and in a fiery sunset the day goes out.."

Chipping Tent

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