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The Missouri Marble Industry in 1926


“The History of Marble”

by Col. John Stephen Sewell (Courtesy The Southern Banker)

in Throvgh The Ages Magazine, April 1926, Vol. 3, No. 12, pp. 28-35.

“Marble is crystalline limestone.  Most of the limestones of the world are believed to have originated from the accumulation of the calcareous remains of marine animals, such as corals and crinoids, on the bottom of the sea.  This material accumulated through long ages, and in great thicknesses.  In many cases they have been subsequently consolidated into limestones and then through earth stresses, under suitable conditions, compelled to crystallize into marble.  Most of the marbles of the world belong to the Paleozoic era, the earliest of the geological eras in which there is an abundant record of life.  Considering the extent to which modern civilization is dependent upon coal, iron ore and limestone, it is interesting to note that the more important deposits of all three of these materials are referred to in the same era.  They are all believed to owe their accumulation to organic agencies, either vegetable of animal.  It is a theme for philosophical reflection that these three rocks, as the geologist calls them, which are so necessary to modern civilization, were accumulated ages ago by more primitive forms of life, which so far as we know, flourished and disappeared before the human animal appeared upon the scene.

Endless Varieties of Marble

“Marble occurs in endless variety and great abundance.  The successful development of a marble deposit is, however, a slow and expensive proposition, and the available supply is dependent upon developed quarries, and not upon the great extent and abundance of deposits.  The same agencies which made marble the most beautiful of all the stones available for building purposes, also made it erratic in many ways so that there is always great waste in producing it, especially in the more desirable kinds and grades, and often no commercially suitable stone is obtained until after a great deal of development work has been done.  This makes it intrinsically more expensive than many other building stones, but it is a product which is never sold at an exorbitant margin of profit, and it is worth all it costs and more.  Possibly if it were less expensive to produce, it might also be less highly prized, notwithstanding its intrinsic beauty.

“Marbles in an endless variety of color and texture are produced in Italy, Greece, Africa, France, Spain, Belgium, Norway, Germany and Switzerland, in the old world.  The Green and Italian deposits were worked long before the Christian era....”

Eighteen Producing States

“In the United States, marbles have been produced in Vermont, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, California, Minnesota and Alaska.  Marbles are also now being produced from Central America and South America.

“Marbles vary in color from white to black through almost every color and shade of the spectrum.  Sometimes they are coarsely crystalline, and sometimes finely crystalline.  Almost any marble which can be produced in merchantable form finds its appropriate use somewhere in the market.  As a rule, coarsely crystalline marbles are not as attractive as others for polished interior work.  On the other hand, many of them are unsurpassed for exterior building work, and for monumental work.  To a large extent, the marbles of the United States and of the entire world, for that matter, supplement each other so as to make available any sort of complete scheme that the architect may have in mind.  Differences in crystallization give him a great choice in the matter of texture, differences in coloring and in distribution of coloring make it possible for him to have almost any color scheme that the mind of man can conceive....”

Gray Marble in Missouri

“Missouri produces a variety of marbles generally of a gray or buff gray tone, which takes a good polish, and have found a ready market where marble is desired and cost is a vital consideration.  They are generally somewhat less expensive than other marbles of the same general character, and very satisfactory.  There are cases where marbles like the Missouri marbles are more suitable from every point of view than other marbles.  So that each variety of marble finds its own sphere of usefulness in which it stands at the head of the list....”

A general view of a quarry at Phenix, Missouri, that produces a gray marble. A general view of a quarry at Phenix, Missouri, that produces a gray marble.

Marble Industry Important One

“While the marble business is not a large one as compared with steel, cement, coal, etc., it is, considering the volume of the business, a highly important factor in the industrial upbuilding of any state where the industry is maintained.

“While marble is not the least expensive in first cost, it is at least as permanent and satisfactory in use as any finishing material available.  The cost of maintaining it is very small, and in high-class buildings when first cost and the cost of maintenance are considered together, marble is of all finishing materials available, the most economical.  It resists stains and discolorations, at least as well as anything available.  It is very easy to clean and keep clean.  Properly cared for, it will retain its polish or other finish, practically as long as the building stands, but if desired, the finish can be removed or changed without prohibitive cost....”

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