Personal Accounts, Stories, & Creations of People
Working with Stone
Please note that there are other accounts of stone workers involved in the stone trade in the state in which they lived and worked.
Walter S. Arnold, Sculptor/Stone Carver, Chicago, Illinois.
“Artistry of the Early American Stonemason,” January 22, 2015, presented by Old Stone Houses.
Reinhold Begas, Berlin, Germany – “Inside Bega’s Studio” (located in Berlin, Germany), in The Monumental News, June 1895.
This article contains a photograph of the main part of Reinhold Bega’s equestrian group of Emperor William I, the national monument in Berlin. The “socle on which the group is to stand” was made of granite, although the source of the granite is not specified.
Tom Blatt, Sculptor and Painter, Brooklyn, New York.
“Joseph Conrad has worked & played in the stone industry for fifty years. From architectural drafting to quarrying to stone installations to founding a stone fabrication business to stone exploring and eventually to sculpture. His blog shares his lifetime of experience. It is meant to make the urban landscape understandable to everyone. He hopes to help provide a sense of place in the urban environment by providing his insights on stone history & fabrication.”
Don Dougan, Sculptor, Atlanta, Georgia.
Early Stone Cutters in Western Missouri, A Research Study From Jones-Seelinger-Johannes Foundation, Butler, Missouri.
Michael Fannin, Stonecarver, Middle Springs, Vermont
Karl Frey – Account about Karl Frey, and who “…was a third generation stone carver, born in 1904 or 1905. His first job as a journeyman carver was on the Chicago Tribune Tower around 1925, and at age 28 he became the carving foreman on the National Archives building….,” by Walter S. Arnold, Sculptor, Facebook post, September 1, 2021. (Used with permission.)
“One of my favorite chisels. One day last century, when I was working on the Washington Cathedral, an elderly gentleman walked into the shop and asked if I minded if he watched. I smiled, welcomed him, and resumed my carving. After 5 minutes I paused and he introduced himself. His name was Karl Frey, and he was a third generation stone carver, born in 1904 or 1905. His first job as a journeyman carver was on the Chicago Tribune Tower around 1925, and at age 28 he became the carving foreman on the National Archives building. He was lead carver on the two massive art deco sculptures of men trying to control horses, a few blocks from the White House on Pennsylvania Ave. Those were designed by Michael Lantz; you might not be familiar with this sculptor, but you certainly know the work of his brother, Walter Lantz, who created Woody Woodpecker. In the 1940’s Karl Frey worked alongside his father on the Jefferson Memorial, and then worked on the Washington Cathedral.
“He invited me to visit him that weekend, and when I arrived he said that he wanted to give me his tools. These included calipers that he used on the Lantz sculptures and the Jefferson Memorial, a German made pointing machine (a pantograph for measuring from models), and dozens of chisels. Many were stamped with the names of their original owners from whom he’d received them. This one doesn’t have any name, but like several of his tools, has a very interesting feature. Prior to adoption of the pneumatic hammer, the old mallet chisels were shaped with a large bulb or ball at the back where the hammer would strike. With pneumatic hammers, while the cutting edge of the chisel is the same, the back of the shank needs to be a straight cylinder. He had a number of old mallet chisels, including this one, that had been ground down (probably in the first two decades of the 20th century) to fit the pneumatic hammer. Therefore, this chisel is well over 100 years old. It is a long shallow gouge with a very thin cross section so it cuts very smoothly and cleanly in limestone. Thanks to something in the combination of the steel, the skill of blacksmith who forged it, and the way the thin edge cuts the stone, it holds its edge beautifully. I use it very often, but I’ve probably spent less than two minutes sharpening it in all the time I’ve had it.
“Two or three years after I met Mr. Frey I had to opportunity to do restoration carving on the Chicago Tribune Tower, the building he worked on in the 20’s. I used his chisels on that project. By that point he was in hospice, but before he passed away I was able to let him know about the serendipitous continuity of the life of these tools.”
Gary D. Grossman, Sculptor, G. Grossman’s Fine Art – Visit Gary Grossman’s web site to view photographs of California soapstone, Colorado alabaster, Kansas Tuxedo limestone, Kansas Cottonwood limestone, Virginia steatite, Wisconsin sandstone, Nova Scotia blue anhydrite, and Brazilian soapstone.
“The Life of a Quarry Worker,” presented by Stone Mountain Park. (The direct link to this document is no longer available on the Stone Mountain Park web site: “The Life of a Quarry Worker – Post trip activity.”)
This post trip activity document includes the following sections: Background information on Georgia granites and granite-gneisses, Historical Overview (Quarrying on Stone Mountain, the Stone Mountain granite Company, the Stone Mountain Granite Corporation, wages for quarrymen, the stone cutters’ union), Quarrying Methods, Sources, & Crystals, Minerals, and Rocks.
Irish Stonemasons – Rock Fences in the Bluegrass. The information below is taken from the online article: “Rock Fences of the Bluegrass Still in Jeopardy,” by Leatha Kendrick, on the University of Kentucky/Odyssey Online web site maintained by Alicia Gregory. (The book and author referred to below are Rock Fences of the Bluegrass, by Carolyn Murray-Wooley and Karl Raitz.) (The following quotation is used with permission.) (The original link is no longer available, although you can view it on the Internet Archive Wayback Machine.)
“Eight years ago Karl Raitz’ work on rock fences in Kentucky was instrumental in debunking the myth that these fences were built by slaves before the Civil War. The myth of the fences’ construction, like many myths, was partly true. His investigation traced the real origins of the fences to the work of Irish stonemasons who immigrated into the Bluegrass in the early to mid-19th century. These masons passed the craft along to slaves who became master artisans themselves and further passed the craft on to other black artisans, giving rise to the popular labeling of the rock fences as ‘slave walls.’”
Shabtai Levy in Jerusalem: “‘Ancient Merits of Stone’: Age-Old Architecture of Israel Still Solid as a Rock,” by Dan Fisher, June 13, 1985, Los Angeles Times.
Oleg Lobykin, Stone Carver and Sculptor, Stonesculpt, East Palo Alto, California
Gary McWilliams, Marble Carver and owner of Stone Arts of Alaska, in Craig, Alaska, & Bellingham, Washington. According to the web site, the stone sold by Stone Arts of Alaska comes from the coastal area islands of southeast Alaska. Visit the web site to view finished pieces made from the Aphrodite Marble, Jupiter Marble, Prince of Wales Greenstone, and many other Alaskan stones. Several of these stones contain fossils. His account of his discovery of Jupiter Marble is especially interesting: “Marble on the Edge,” by Gary McWilliams, Stone Arts of Alaska.
Judd Mullady, Marble Carver, of Haines, Alaska, is the subject of the article “Working with marble, rolling with changes,” by Tom Morphet, in the Chilkat Valley News, Vol. XXXVIII, No. 49, December 11, 2008. (Feel free to contact me if you’d like Judd Mullady’s contact information. Peggy B. Perazzo.) (The original link to this article is no longer available, although you can read the article using the Internet Archive Wayback Machine link: “Working with marble, rolling with changes.”)
According to this article, sculptor Judd Mullady has carved marble gravestones for families in Haines and Juneau. He uses local Haines marble which varies from “white, pink or green in color.”
Welton Roltz, Sculptor and Stone Carver, Sausalito, California
“Some Women Marble Cutters,” in The Monumental News Magazine, the date of the original publication is unknown, although it was published some years after 1885, pp. 120 (?). This article was included as one of the past articles of the magazine in the December, 1939 issue of The Monumental News Magazine. (Photo captions: Lucy J. Daniel, of Executor, Mo.; Alice E. Rigg, of Canada; & Pearl Sams, of Great Bend, Kansas.)
Stone Carvers – “What is a stonecarver?” – Thoughts by Patrick Plunkett, on the Stone Carvers Guild web site. (This link is no longer available, although it’s available on the Internet Archive Wayback Machine – Scroll down about 2/3rds of the page.)
Stone Workers & Their Families in American Life Histories – Manuscripts from WPA Writers’ Project (1936-1940), Library of Congress – American Memory.
(From the web site) “These life histories were compiled and transcribed by the staff of the Folklore Project of the Federal Writers’ Project for the U.S. Works Progress (later Work Projects) Administration (WPA) from 1936-1940. The Library of Congress collection includes 2,900 documents representing the work of over 300 writers from 24 states. Typically 2,000-15,000 words in length, the documents consist of drafts and revisions, varying in form from narrative to dialogue to report to case history. The histories describe the informant’s family education, income, occupation, political views, religion and mores, medical needs, diet and miscellaneous observations. Pseudonyms are often substituted for individuals and places named in the narrative texts.”
The Stonesetters – The Men Who Built the University (Duke University Archives, Durham, North Carolina). This site tells the story of Louis Fara, a native of Frugarola, Italy, and the other stone masons of his era who help to build Duke University – Duke Stone.
“July 16, 1990 marked the end of an era in the history of the construction of Duke University. On that date Louis Fara, a native of Frugarola, Italy, and the last of the original stone setters who skillfully laid the Indiana limestone trim on West Campus, died…Fara was representative of a group of laborers whose unique background and contribution will be acknowledged as long as eyes gaze upon Duke’s majestic Gothic arches. The laborers’ background and their sense of accomplishment have to be pieced together from scattered published interviews. Fortunately, their names are familiar, for many remained in Durham to raise their families. Six decades after the completion of West Campus the city telephone directory still lists the Italian names of Fara, Ribet, Ferettino, Citrini, and Berini. In addition, Giobbi and Greppi worked the stone as well as the highly respected stone workers Macadie and Brown. They worked along side native blacks and mountain whites who had also migrated to Durham in search of steady employment during severe economic times.”
“What French Sculptors Think of American Sculptors” (in 1895), in The Monumental News, May 1895.