The Cape Ann Quarries
Ellen Day Hale
Short Fiction, Travelogue
Mining, Geology, Reading, Encyclopaedias, Gender, Environmentalism, Natural Imperialism
Two female artists, Bessy and Anastasia, travel by railway from Boston to the coastal town of Rockport, where they intend to sketch the granite quarries of Cape Ann. Once there, the well-informed Anastasia remarks, 'The value of the product of the granite quarries of Massachusetts was nearly a million and a half dollars in 1875', and she reflects that 'It's a very entertaining book, that State census. The list of mines, quarries, and so forth, is edifying enough' (550–51). She later informs her companion that 'granite is not always so hard [...]. Don't you know it was melted, to begin with?—all white-hot, flowing out of the centre of the earth?', but Bessy replies that 'Some geologists think it was not', and she adds, 'It also, I hear, explodes sometimes in case of fire'. To this, Anastasia, 'looking into her notebook', responds, 'That's because of the unequal expansion of the parts. You're telling me all the things I meant to tell you. I've been looking them up in the encyclopædia, or rather in several different encyclopædias'. (552) The two women also ponder the environmental effects of the powerful 'steam-drill' used by the quarrymen ('which makes in a day a hole twenty to thirty feet deep'), and consider whether it is 'human work which they were doing, the ancient healthful business for which Adam was set in the garden?' (552–53). Anastasia, however, insists, 'I have always heard that what we were put here for was to subdue the earth', and she finds 'something inspiring in the atmosphere of hard work' (553).
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