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Catalog Number 2005.050.0001
Object Name Tape, Cassette
Scope & Content Oral history of Steve S. Williams' recollections of slate industry, as recorded by Stephen T. Williams on 15 May 2003.

Steve Williams had two brothers; Jack owns Newmont Slate, was formerly known as Granville Slate in 1962; older brother Norm left, became dishwasher in Lake George. Steve worked for them in summer when he was a teenager. In 1975, he began with Rising and Nelson, sawing tile. Bob Jones was foreman ("Lame Bob"), taught Steve to be a yardman; after he retired, took his place. Nelson's had disappeared by 1970's.

Mertz from Rye, NY, purchased company in 1948; Brockey, and Wilson also involved in exploration, management, both left by 1952. Mertz sold company by 1990's. Mertz' grandfather was in construction on Long Island (tin. tar, wood, and slate).. Arthur B. Little was employed also.

Rising & Nelson - 1869 when railroads were built, good times. Depression in business during Great Depression, slow down after WWI due to lighter construction and different roofing materials.
1952 - slow down, poor working conditions; 1960's - tile business became important; 1960's to 1980's - not profitable.

Around 1985, resurgence in building, demand grew for roofing slate and related uses - environmentalists love it (except in Vermont). Housing industry grew, market was in traditional areas where slate was appreciated - Long Island, California, Southern Connecticut, Bergen, NJ, Southwest, Federal buildings. Slate found in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Georgia, Virginia, Alabama, Maine; Steve thinks that Virginia slate is as good as ours.

Steve says "We were too stupid to get out of the market", gradually we gained the expertise, and made it successful. Maine doesn't have the incentive (Tatko has a quarry there); this region persisted, we had no other natural resources to explore and exploit.
Main markets for slate: East Coast, colleges. Long Island Sound, Westchester, Michigan, New York, Toronto, Mid-West, Texas, Oklahoma. (California is gone because of cost of shipping.)

Information from the Rising & Nelson archives: Fire in 1905 - office in New York City. Nelson built an office in West Pawlet, rented first floor (Post Office), has documents from that era, not well cared for in past.

Competition for slate industry in this area: Largest concentration of colors in the world, but area doesn't have solid, unfading black; most of rest of world has black - Spain, China, India - now beginning to hurt our exports - the harder the slate, the thinner the product (3/8" to 1/2" our average). China has green,other colors, could put us all out of business. There is a market for our variety of colors.

Steve reports "no serious quarry accidents in my life-time". Tunnelling was ended in 1930's - Safety inspectors. Slate industry is largest employer here, pay is much better now, dedication by many makes a better industry. Steve is optimistic about the future of the industry, but feels it is still in the Stone Age with tools - old equipment, punching machine (1910), most made here by the companies - new machines not used by us, can't afford. This area has smaller pits, more shallow veins of slate than in Wales, Europe, more family-owned businesses.
Creator Williams, Stephen T.
Title Steve Williams, Oral History