Penn Acquires the Archives of the Vermont Marble Company
The archives of the marble company that provided material for the Lincoln Memorial, the National Gallery of Art, the United Nations and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier has been acquired by the University of Pennsylvania Libraries and the University of Pennsylvania School of Design.
The acquisition includes the Vermont Marble Company’s business records and a stone sample collection, documenting the firm’s activities from its beginning in 1869 as the Sutherland Falls Marble Company to its final years in the 1970s.
Penn is planning collaborative projects with the Preservation Trust of Vermont, which has acquired the Vermont Marble Museum in Proctor, the original home of the company. The projects may range from updated exhibitions and student workshops to educational courses and publications. In addition, a merit-based scholarship will be established for a Vermont student to study at Penn’s School of Design.
The Vermont Marble Company was one of a handful of businesses that characterized America’s rapid growth in the country’s commercial transition to global prominence at the end of the 19th century. Vermont Marble produced the stuff of monumental America from everyday memorials to commercial and domestic palaces to national monuments. As supplier, designer, fabricator and seller, the company encompassed the very nature of American ingenuity and resourcefulness and quickly became a global competitor in the European-dominated world of building and ornamental stonework.
The business records begin with Redfield Proctor’s consolidation of many of the existing smaller stone yards near Rutland. Included are correspondence, purchase orders, payrolls, job books, individual project files, drawings (linens, blueprints, pencil sketches and original watercolor designs), photographs, printed trade catalogs with illustrations and salesmen’s kits. The photographic record contains thousands of negatives documenting the company’s many quarries, stone yards, trimming rooms, construction sites and finished projects.
All of these records are further extended and complemented by perhaps the most unusual aspect of the archives, a carefully assembled and cataloged collection of more than 1,000 stone reference samples from quarries throughout the world. Few American enterprises have lasted so long and intact, continuing in the tradition of their founders. The result is a distinctive research collection that not only documents the rise of this company but also American industry in general and specifically how the business of building in America radically changed from the Victorian era to Beaux Arts to post-war modernism. The records will enable scholars and researchers to build interpretation of the development of the urban environment with a perspective previously unavailable on this scale. In addition, there is potential to shed light on architect-client decisions pertaining to particular buildings. Other topics could include 20th-century business practice, the architecture of the Public Works Administration, the place of stone in the history of the City Beautiful movement and public history and state sponsorship of architecture.