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Extracting Wealth

Text by Candace Kanes

Images from Hubbard Free Library, Maine Historical Society, Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands, Monson Historical Society, Penobscot Marine Museum, Skowhegan History House, and Thomaston Historical Society

The headline on a short item in the New York Times on Feb. 2, 1902 read "Maine Quarries Rushed. All Busy and Have Work to Keep Them So for at Least a Year."

The first paragraph elaborated, "Never in the history of the granite industry in Maine were the quarries so rushed with work as they now are, and there is assurance of busy times for a year or two at least."

It was the peak of Maine's granite boom, which had been fueled, in part, by federal contracts for buildings ranging from post offices and courthouses across the country to the government's buildings in Washington, D.C.: the Library of Congress, the Senate Office Building, the National Archives, the Smithsonian Institution, the Washington Monument, and many others.

Granite, and Maine's other major quarry industries, limestone centered in Rockport and Rockland and slate in Monson, Brownville, and Milo, all offered a similar combination of low investments, big profits, and dangerous working conditions.

The combination of skilled workers, natural resources and geography benefited these industries.