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Maine Memory Network

Extracting Wealth

This slideshow contains 22 items
1
Granite quarry, Hancock County

Granite quarry, Hancock County

Item 14053 info
Maine Granite Industry Historical Society

Granite quarrying began in Maine about 1830 and grew steadily until early in the 20th century when reinforced concrete and steel became preferred building materials.

But until then, Maine was known for its granite.

The state was the leader in the value of granite produced in the United States in 1901.


2
Hallowell Granite Works carvers, ca. 1895

Hallowell Granite Works carvers, ca. 1895

Item 29247 info
Hubbard Free Library

The state boasted at least 152 quarries that employed about 3,500 workers (who earned some $2 million annually), who not only extracted the granite, but cut it into sizes and shapes that had been ordered for specific projects, and sometime carved it into decorative shapes for buildings across the U.S.

Quarries were in locations all over the state with the largest number in Knox County, followed by Hancock and Washington counties.


3
Immigrant workers, Hall Quarry, Mount Desert, 1905

Immigrant workers, Hall Quarry, Mount Desert, 1905

Item 19465 info
Maine Granite Industry Historical Society

The skilled workers – many immigrants from Italy, Sweden, Finland, Italy, Scotland and England – were as important as the state's geography and natural resources.


4
Granite Cutters' National Union Badge, Frankfort

Granite Cutters' National Union Badge, Frankfort

Item 19458 info
Maine Granite Industry Historical Society

In 1877, granite workers in Maine formed the first granite industry union, the Granite Cutters Union, to protect their wages, reduce working hours, force regular pay dates, ensure quality, and formalize an apprenticeship system. Some cutters were not making living wages and the work was liable to end at any time, among other issues.


5
Merrill Quarry, Crotch Island, Stonington

Merrill Quarry, Crotch Island, Stonington

Item 17200 info
Maine Granite Industry Historical Society

On Vinalhaven in 1878, the Bodwell Granite Co. planned to fire 30 union members, prompting a strike. The strike ended, but low wages continued to be a concern for workers.

Much of the work Bodwell undertook was for government contracts for buildings in Washington, D.C., and various post offices.


6
Cutting sheds, Benvenue Granite Co., Stonington, ca. 1912

Cutting sheds, Benvenue Granite Co., Stonington, ca. 1912

Item 26140 info
Maine Historical Society

Granite work was dangerous, involving dynamite blasts, cave-ins, highly stressed steel cables, and a debilitating lung disease caused by dust in the quarries and the cutting and polishing sheds.


7
Quarry Workers At Mount Waldo, ca. 1860

Quarry Workers At Mount Waldo, ca. 1860

Item 25986 info
Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands

Maine's geologic history left the state with numerous granite deposits.

But it was the location of granite deposits close to ocean ports and the availability of large ships, shipbuilders, and timber to build ships that made granite extraction economically viable.


8
Galamander at Mount Waldo, ca. 1860

Galamander at Mount Waldo, ca. 1860

Item 25985 info
Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands

The granite industry in Maine declined by the middle of the 20th century as new building styles and materials replaced the old.

But the evidence of Maine's dominance remains in buildings and structures such as the Brooklyn Bridge, Washington Monument, Grant's Tomb, and the Smithsonian, among many others.


9
Limestone quarry, Thomaston, ca. 1880

Limestone quarry, Thomaston, ca. 1880

Item 25370 info
Maine Historical Society

Granite may have built the structure, but limestone provided plaster and mortar.

Limestone quarrying began in the early 1800s and a huge vein of it lay near the surface in the Thomaston-Rockland-Rockport area.

Not only is it high-quality limestone, it is close to the coast and therefore, like the granite, easily loaded onto ships and transported.


10
Lime rock quarry, Rockland, ca. 1915

Lime rock quarry, Rockland, ca. 1915

Item 26112 info
Maine Historical Society

The quarries and kilns produced agricultural limestone, burned lime, cement materials, and chemical limestone for use in the paper industry.


11
Dragon Quarry, Rockland, ca. 1930

Dragon Quarry, Rockland, ca. 1930

Item 25249 info
Maine Historical Society/MaineToday Media

Also like granite, the quarrying and processing operations, along with related equipment and transportation needs, stretched across the community and the economy. In the winter, farmers might make casks or barrels for transporting the lime.

Woodsmen and others cut timber to fire the kilns, until coal replaced wood as the major fuel supply in the early 20th century.

Shipbuilders built ships and captains sailed away from the coast with their volatile cargo. At the height of the lime industry, about 200 ships were in use transporting Maine lime.


12
Lime Quarry, Thomaston, ca. 1870

Lime Quarry, Thomaston, ca. 1870

Item 27840 info
Thomaston Historical Society

Quarrying was dangerous work, with the men using dynamite to break into the rock, and pickaxes or sledgehammers to break it into smaller pieces.

They then removed it from the quarry and loaded it onto carts or rail cars for transport to kilns.


13
Interior of Creighton Kiln, Thomaston, 1900

Interior of Creighton Kiln, Thomaston, 1900

Item 27827 info
Thomaston Historical Society

The rock was cooked in huge kilns at high temperature until it became quicklime, which was then crushed for use in mortar, plaster, and other building and agricultural products.

Once processed, the lime was put into casks for shipping to various markets.

Cooked lime is volatile and fires were common, both at kilns and aboard ships, where water could ignite the lime.


14
Creighton Limekilns, Thomaston, ca. 1930

Creighton Limekilns, Thomaston, ca. 1930

Item 27826 info
Thomaston Historical Society

Lime workers, too, fought for fair wages. A story in the New York Times in March 1898 reported that Rockland quarrymen were on strike, and others throughout the state could follow.

The issue was primarily wages. In order for Rockland workers, where the lime and the facilities were superior, to get more money, Rockport and Thomaston also had to increase their wages to keep Rockland from pricing itself out of the market.


15
Creighton Kiln Base, Thomaston, 1900

Creighton Kiln Base, Thomaston, 1900

Item 27825 info
Thomaston Historical Society

By the middle of the 20th century, the limestone industry was largely gone, with the vein of stone depleted and new building materials replacing the old.


16
Monson-Maine Slate Company mill

Monson-Maine Slate Company mill

Item 9182 info
Monson Historical Society

From 1880 to 1904 Maine was among the top five slate-producing states in the country, providing slate of excellent quality for roofing tiles and other purposes.

Many Maine homes and public buildings dating to that time are still protected by their original slate roofs.

Monson alone had more than a dozen slate quarries at the end of the 19th century. By the second decade of the 20th century, three companies owned most of the slate pits and quarries.


17
Monson-Maine Slate Company mill

Monson-Maine Slate Company mill

Item 9182 info
Monson Historical Society

Monson slate is considered to be a fine quality because of the black color.

It was used as the memorial stone for President John F. Kennedy and his two children. In August of 1994 the headstone was made of Monson slate for Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.

St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York has a slate roof made from Monson slate.


18
Man in hoist box

Man in hoist box

Item 10750 info
Monson Historical Society

In an 1889 brochure entitled "Monson, the Switzerland of Maine," the Monson Maine Slate Company waxed poetic about the beauties of the region and its many attractions.

In a short section about the company, the brochure proclaims, "These quarries are situated in a pretty valley, hemmed in by tree-crested hills, and are reached by a serpentine road through beautiful rural surroundings, or over the petite narrow gauge railroad."

The brochure called Monson slate the best in the world -- durable and a blue-black shade that becomes "richer in color the longer it is laid."


19
Slate workers, Monson, ca. 1922

Slate workers, Monson, ca. 1922

Item 10751 info
Monson Historical Society

Between 1872 and 1889, the company produced 250,000 squares of roofing slate that was sold all over the U.S.

The company called the vein it was mining "inexhaustible."


20
Monson Slate Quarry Hoist

Monson Slate Quarry Hoist

Item 9180 info
Monson Historical Society

The Monson Slate Company brochure also noted that, "It requires a practiced eye to detect at a glance the slate and the flint; and of all men engaged in the business, the Welshman, who has worked in slate quarries of his own native Wales, can most readily read, as it were, the language of rocks."


21
Slate quarry, Brownville Junction, ca. 1910

Slate quarry, Brownville Junction, ca. 1910

Item 26068 info
Penobscot Marine Museum

As in other mining operations in Maine, slate workers undertook the dangerous work of blasting the slate when necessary to remove large chunks.

It also was removed with crowbars or other hand tools.


22
Mayfield Slate Quarry, Skowhegan

Mayfield Slate Quarry, Skowhegan

Item 9085 info
Skowhegan History House

Workers then trim the slate to insure a uniform thickness for use in roofing.

While the work was once done by hand with a chisel, by 1889, it was done by a steam-operated knife.

Slate companies also make tubs, sinks, countertops, blackboards, hearthstones, flooring, windowsills, and numerous other products.


This slideshow contains 22 items