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The Iowa 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."

Des Moines, Iowa:  "For the finest buildings in this city, brick, with pressed brick fronts and stone trimmings, is chiefly used.

"Brick is obtained mainly from Saint Louis and Chicago, although there is some local manufacture.

"For foundations limestone and brick are used.  The former is from Earlham, Madison county, Iowa.  For trimmings there are in use the following:  Sandstones from Carroll county, Missouri, and Cleveland, Ohio; a comparatively small amount of quartzite from Sioux Falls, Dakota, and artificial stone locally manufactured.  During the past year frame dwellings have comprised the bulk of the buildings erected, and little artistic work has been done.  For the finest residences slate is used for roofing; shingles, of course, for cheap frame buildings.  Business buildings are about equally divided between gravel and tar composition and tin.  Tile is not used for roofing.  Ornamental brick and tile are coming more and more into use."

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