Rock Products 120th Anniversary – Part 1

26 120YEARS 150


In This Issue, We Cover The Years 1896-1901.

Before there was Rock Products, there was Cement & Engineering News. Founded in July 1896 by William Seafert, the journal set out to serve a fledgling cement industry whose primary work involved the construction of sidewalks and foundations. Cement & Engineering News would be purchased by and merged into Rock Products almost 20 years later.

In the premiere issue, Seafert proposed to, “invade the field, in the interest of the cement trade and its kindred industries…we shall endeavor to bring the producer and consumer closer together, to their mutual advantage.”

When founded, the magazine had little to work with. In 1896, portland cement production in the U.S. amounted to 1,543,023 bbls, or about 290,000 tons, valued at $2.4 million; this was about 56 percent higher than 1895. There were 26 plants operating in 10 states, with the majority concentrated in Pennsylvania and New York. More than 1 million bbls of the country’s output came from Lehigh County, Pa., and Phillipsburg, N.J. Imports of portland cement in 1896 were about 3 million bbls, nearly twice the American output.

Year Crushed Stone Sand & Gravel Cement
1896 N/A N/A 0.29
1897 N/A N/A 0.50
1898 N/A N/A 0.69
1899 N/A N/A 1.06
1900 N/A N/A 1.59
1901 N/A N/A 2.39
1902 N/A N/A 3.24
1903 N/A N/A 4.20
1904 N/A N/A 4.98
1905 N/A N/A 6.63
1906 N/A N/A 8.76
1907 N/A N/A 9.17
1908 N/A N/A 9.60
1909 N/A N/A 12.21
1910 N/A N/A 14.39
Source: U.S. Geological Survey
million short tons

By 1901, the aggregate industry has grown considerably, and one editor said, “There should be crushed stone plants in the neighborhood of every town of 3,000 population or more in the country, especially on the railways, which use great quantities of this material.”

At the turn of the century, all of the following equipment was in wide use in the rock products industry: steam shovels; draglines; slackline cableways; drag scrapers; centrifugal pump, bucket ladder, and clamshell dredges; and hydraulicking. O&K introduced the first bucket dredger in 1901, made completely out of wood.

Some of the companies developing new technology for the industry are still around today. Emil Deister built his first ore-separating table in his basement and took his invention to Arizona, where he begged space from mill owners for its demonstration. Successful and armed with orders for the new equipment, Emil returned to Fort Wayne, Ind., to set up business in 1906, as the Deister Concentrator Co. In 1912, Emil sold his interests in Deister Concentrator Co. and established Deister Machine Co. Inc.

Deister Machine Co. began manufacturing operations at 1933 East Wayne Street in Fort Wayne, Ind., its current location. The original building, a 5,500 sq.-ft. plant, is still in active use amidst a total operation that today spans more than 360,000 sq. ft. and four plant locations in Fort Wayne.

James Craig McLanahan teamed up with partners to buy a foundry in Gaysport, Pa., in 1835. That venture eventually became McLanahan Corp. Samuel Calvin McLanahan invented processing equipment that changed the industry, such as the log washer and single-roll crusher. McLanahan Corp still thrives today in Hollidaysburg, Pa.

Infrastructure26 RP1 400

One of the biggest issues facing everyone in the rock products industry was the need to develop infrastructure within cities. The increased construction of sidewalks in urban areas was gaining much attention. At a conference in St. Louis, the focus was on funding blue-colored sidewalks not covered in the city ordinance. The contractor argued successfully that the blue tint saved “thousands of eyes annually, while it does impair the good quality of the work.”

Another issue facing cement and concrete manufacturers was the rapid development of waterways and sewer systems. In 1896, Chicago contemplated substituting concrete for brick in the sewage system in order to escape the escalating cost of brick at that time. Brick workers quickly smothered the idea, though, and the editor commented that, “the cement interest is too much scattered to effect positive legislation in their own interest.” He went on to urge crushed stone producers, who were “well equipped, with brains and energy to conserve their own interest,” to help rally on behalf of concrete sewer pipes.

27 RP2 400While production figures in 1896 were low, by 1901 cement production had increased by 800 percent to 12,711,225 bbls, or 2.4 million tons. And while 1897 to 1900 saw imports yearly of about 2 million bbls, 1901 imports only reached 940,000 bbls, a direct result of the burgeoning U.S. cement industry. Estimated value of stone production in 1901 was $61 million.

The rock products industry was in its toddler years, and wide-eyed and ready for the challenges to come. The same issues producers faced during the early years of Cement & Engineering News would continue to loom ever larger, as city populations threatened to outgrow transportation systems and housing, and sanitary and safety issues began to move to the front.

Serve the Trade

April 1902 saw the first issue of Rock Products, published in Louisville, Ky., by E.H. Defebaugh. The mission statement stated, among other things, that the magazine would “serve the trade in every honorable way possible, and to do it so persistently and thoroughly as to not only merit the support of the trade, but get it. We know there are already other papers covering parts of the field before us, but we propose to cover the whole field; not in a lifeless manner, but we will cooperate with will, both editorially and personally, in any and all movements to better the conditions in any branch of the trade.”28 RP3 400

Rock Products took to the task and in every issue devoted pages to each division of the construction materials division of the construction materials industry, including any information it could find on new projects, inventions and personnel changes; in the earliest issues it seems not a speck of information was left unnoticed. The magazine employed full-time traveling correspondents, whose reports brought to life far-away operations. One reporter wrote, “I arrived in Joliet simultaneously with a storm and cloudburst, which all but washed the town off the map, and suspended business for a couple of days.”

Defebaugh played a key role in developing “the association idea,” which he said was needed to “engender a brotherly spirit” in the industry. He worked with industry leaders to organize meetings and planning sessions, and, in the following years, associations formed all around the country.

28 RP4 400In 1902, the American Road Builders’ Association was formed, and the Association of Portland Cement Manufacturers was formed in 1903. Rock Products in 1903 went on to become the official organ of both the National Lime Manufacturers Association and the Inter-State Builders Supply Association.

The charter of the National Quarry Owners Association, formed in May 1903, is an excellent example of “the association idea” brought to life: “The object of this association shall be to promote social intercourse, discussions of all subjects of general interest to the trade, to organize and foster local associations, to improve and promote better methods in quarrying and sale of stone, to take action to compete with other trades, to adopt ways and means to increase the sales of its members, to favor and cooperate for a fair classification and equitable rates and take action on all special questions for the advancement of the interests of the trade.” What seems obvious today was a brand new concept in the very early 1900s.

Producers wanting to advertise their products could also turn to Rock Products for advice: According to the editor, producers must “establish a reputation for three things and you are in good shape to make money out of your business. These three things are promptness, quality of goods, and having a variety of goods on hand.” Producers also were urged to print mail-order catalogs, which were rapidly gaining in popularity all over the country.

Safety was addressed as an issue by the rock products industry for the first time in 1905, when Clara Barton formed the First Aid Association. Rock Products commented on her efforts and urged its quarry, mill and factory workers to attend Barton’s classes in First Aid, later going so far as to help First Aid retreats.


The rock products industry was still too young for entrepreneurs to have a solid grasp of the cost of starting up an operation. Thus, the story of O.H. Duerr was an important warning to fellow readers: in 1903 Duerr attributed trouble at his upstart operation to the fact that, “there are no reliable data available on production of crushed stone.” He had set out with a 750-tpd plant estimated to cost $15,000, and after going $10,000 over budget, was only able to run the plan for 6 ½ hours a day because of frequent breakdowns; maintenance in the first year cost $8,000. In the off-season, Duerr spent $7,000 reconstructing the plant, bringing he project’s total cost in the first year to $32,000.

But even with so much uncertainty of investment, more operations were started around the country. The entrance of Thomas A. Edison into the cement industry in 1902 brought about even more rapid change. At his Edison Portland Cement Works in New Village, N.J., extra-long kilns were introduced, measuring 8 x 150 ft. They were also the first kilns to have lining between the firebrick lining and the shell, made up of layers of ½-in.-thick sheet asbestos.

In April 1904, the World’s Fair opened in St. Louis, and the show brought new ideas to producers from across the country. Rock Products ran a series of articles for the following year about the developments that debuted at the show.

In that same year, the Sturtevant Mill Co. introduced the Open Door Rotary Fine Crusher, with a wide-swinging door to make maintaining and cleaning parts easier. The world’s first bucket dredger made of iron was introduced by O&K.

One of the largest quarries in the world, Cleveland Stone Co.’s South Amherst, Ohio, works, installed one of the largest compressed-air plants marking a distinct step in quarry working on a large scale.

The discovery of a large strip of oolitic limestone in Indiana let to a boom in production there. One of the largest, Bedford Quarries, was the first ever to try hydraulic stripping and scabbling machines. Throughout 1905, Rock Products ran a series of profiles on plants producing oolitic limestone and, consequently, coverage of the monument industry grew.

Transportation29 RP5 400

At the beginning of 1907, Defebaugh stated that, “the transportation problem is the only problem of serious importance to the commercial interest of the country at this time.” Railroad development (or lack thereof), streets and sidewalks were most frequently discussed, and railroad car shortages in 1908 hampered the industry in two ways, by both slowing transport of goods and reducing the amount of railroad ballast purchased. Proposed tariff hikes by railroad lines of between 20 percent and 25 percent were protested in Chicago.

The growth of concrete sidewalk paving had led to increased interest in road paving. One city engineer suggested, “paving one of our narrow streets with an all-concrete driveway as an experiment, as I have no doubt a street of this kind properly laid would prove a success and would be cheaper than brick.” In reply, Defebaugh optimistically told readers: “the time will come when the concrete roadway will be accepted as a fact and no longer an experiment.”

Not long after this exchange in Rock Products came the announcement of a contract in Worcester, Mass., to build a 60-mile stretch of road on Long Island for the Vanderbilt cup races. At the time it was the largest paving contract ever let, and was expected to cost millions of dollars and employ 2,000 workers throughout an entire summer.

The cement industry benefitted from a number of time-saving inventions during this period. Concrete mixing methods changed rapidly between 1905 and 1910: at the first cement users convention, no mixing machines had been displayed, and most concrete mixing was done strictly by hand. But at the 6th annual convention many types of concrete mixing machines were displayed. Bagging standards in the cement industry continued to improve.

But in 1906, a bagging machine was introduced that automatically filled, weighed and tied the bags at a rate of 100 tph; the operator only had to hang the bags on the mouths of filling tubes. In 1907, the Bates Valve Bag (made of paper) was perfected; its use allowed 20 cement bags-per-minute to be filled, weighed and tied.

Crusher Development

Crusher development was also prevalent in this era. Plans to build the largest rock crushing plant in the world, the Finck Farm operation in New York, included a crusher weighing 200,000 lb. to produce 700 tph.

The largest gyratory crusher of its time was built in 1906, a No. 9 with a receiving opening of about 20 in. Soon after another gyratory crusher with a feed opening of 16 in. was introduced, its creator had no idea what to charge for it, so he sold it for a specific price per pound.

Universal introduced the overhead eccentric jaw crusher in 1906, and in 1910 Rock Products featured the Symons disc crusher, intended for crushing rejections coming from product of large gyratory breakers or for pulverizing the small boulders that were rejected from the screens from sand washing and separating plants.

And it was in these very early years of the 20th century that portable crushing plants came into use. They were described as, “a machine, or rather a combination machine, mounted upon wheels and made in several sizes, varying in capacity from 8 to 20 tph.”

A few other major equipment developments occurred between 1906 and 1910.

An item in Rock Products’ “Sidetalk” column mentioned a relatively new invention, a steam shovel and locomotive crane combined.

One article in 1910 featured a new separator unlike all previous, in that it “maintained constant vibration by way of many tiny hammers pounding on the tautly-stretched cloth.” The separator delivered between one and four sizes of product and used 1 hp.

The first dust collector was mentioned in the August 1910 issue of Rock Products. In 1903, a reader had commented that, “If some ingenious man will devise a method by which (dust) can be successfully and economically utilized, he can secure an extended job.” It had only taken seven years before a dust collector, which placed dust in a big bin, was marketed. The material was sold as fertilizer. At the same time, the application of lime as fertilizer was being heavily researched.

Decade’s End

By the end of the decade, it was reported that the amount of crushed rock used for building and engineering purposes had doubled between 1908 and 1910. Portland cement production had jumped from 1.5 million bbls (220,000 tons) in 1896 to 76.5 million bbls (14 million tons) in 1910.

30 RP6 400Rock products operations were opening around the country, and industry leaders and members were building associations and partnerships to work for common goals. Government agencies were beginning to work with the industry to develop standards, and this trend would grow during the next decades. Roads and sidewalks stretched out over the country, barely keeping up with population and automobile production growth. Urban areas were attempting sophistication, and development standards demanded longevity. And as the country changed and matured, so would the rock products industry.

Next Month: Good Roads and the Great War: 1911-1919.

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