Work in Progress…

February 12th, 2010

Now that the sun is shining and it’s relatively warm (20 – 30 temps) we went up into the Museum to look at the new exhibit space for the Tomb display. The Museum is closed for the winter (it’s like an icebox up there!) so we haven’t ventured upstairs much. Anyway, this morning seemed like a good time to take a look at the space. It is going to be fabulous. Our carpenter finished out the room before Christmas. Our mural painter is on board to paint some fantastic scenes of the view from Arlington amphitheater on the walls of the exhibit, around the vintage old photos we’ll display of the carving of the Tomb carving. Here is a sneak

Men working on the block of pure white marble for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Proctor, VT monument shop of the Vermont Marble Company

preview of one of the photos that we’ll hang…taken by the staff photographer of the Vermont Marble Museum in the 1930’s. Enjoy.

Check out Marble Minutes!

February 5th, 2010

You’ll see stories about the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier published on this blog as part of a weekly series in The Rutland Herald called Marble Minutes.  Check out this week’s story about the early days of the Vermont marble industry:

When you click on the link to read the story, please note the “Related Content” section on the right hand side. There you’ll find links to many of the Marble Minutes series. Happy Reading!

Marketing to America’s Heart

February 5th, 2010


The block, complete with advertising sign, is given a moment of respect as it is readied for shipment across country.

By CATHY MIGLORIE SPECIAL TO THE HERALD – Published: November 13, 2009

 The editors of The Memory Stone, while recognizing how important the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier would be as a monument to the nation’s war dead, probably had no idea of the thousands of visitors who would make the pilgrimage to Arlington each day to pay their respects throughout the years.

They did, however, recognize the marketing genius of telling prospective buyers that they can purchase the very same marble for their own family monument and stressed that to their readers.

As work began on the Tomb in Proctor, the April 1931 issue of The Memory Stone reported:

“To raise a 56-ton block from quarries that are 10,000 feet above sea level, lower it by cable to the railroads, and then slide it down the track to a point where it can be loaded for cross-country shipment is a task of no mean proportions. Going back a step further, it’s an extremely exacting commission to go into the quarry and cut out a block of that size which shall be flawlessly even in color and suited for the fine art of the sculptor. That, however, is what has been done in providing the block to complete the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The huge sarcophagus of Yule Colorado marble reached Vermont the last week of February. It has been inspected by the sculptor, the architect, the contractor, and a representative of the Quartermaster General’s Department, and it has their unanimous approval.

“The pictures tell you something of its progress from the bed of the quarry to the car on which it traveled to Vermont. It went first to the West Rutland mill. By the time you read this it will be in the Proctor shops. Much work must be done on it there before it finally goes to Washington. The last of the carving will be executed by the Piccirilli Brothers under the direction of the sculptor after it is set in Arlington Cemetery.

“Doubtless you may remember that when the Unknown Soldier was brought home from across the seas it was planned to complete the temporary memorial which was reared in his honor. As soon as a Congressional fund was available, a competition was inaugurated and the designers of the country were invited to submit plans. The winning design, among the 73 sent in, was created by Lorimer Rich, a New York architect, with whom was associated Thomas Hudson Jones, sculptor. The model is illustrated on the next page.

“The new approach to the Tomb, made possible through a specially constructed road, will be from the Washington side. A broad flight of steps will lead up to it from a level 20 feet below, so that those who visit it may get their first view from the most impressive angle. The end which faces the road and looks across from the Potomac towards the nation’s capitol will have sculptured figures, as portrayed by the model, representing Victory, Peace and American Manhood. The other end, which faces the Arlington Memorial, will bear the inscription. On the sides, set apart by Doric pilasters, are six carven wreaths, signifying a world of memories.

“It will be understood that the block on the car represents simply the die of this memorial. The finished tomb, including sarcophagus, cap and bases, will be approximately 16 feet long, 10 feet wide and 11 feet high. The amount set apart by Congress to meet the cost of the work is about $50,000.

“The Memory Stone is giving considerable space to this contract because, first of all, it applies to one of the most celebrated of the world’s cemetery monuments. People everywhere are interested in it. Newspapers in various parts of the country have pictured the block as it came from the ground and told the story of its significant pilgrimage. Besides, purely from the standpoint of engineering and mechanics, it’s a real record of achievement.

More than that, though, it deserves notice because of the tribute that it pays to the Yule Colorado deposit. Many different marbles were considered, but Yule was the variety shown. That in itself is unusual commendation. Even more remarkable, however, is the fulfilling of the contract. Comparatively few quarries are able to produce sound blocks of such dimensions and the fact that the Yule quarries delivered that huge white shaft of unimpeachable quality is perhaps the most notable part of the record. That is the angle which should appeal to memorial buyers in all parts of the country. That is the phase of it which cannot be too greatly emphasized by the craftsman, for it certainly means much to the prospective purchaser when you tell him that he may have on his cemetery lot the same marble that was used for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.”

The Vermont Marble Co. regularly placed advertisements in popular American magazines touting the excellence of their marble for memorials. As early as October 1927, The Memory Stone told its marble industry audience about the full-color, full-page advertisement that would be placed in the November 1927 issue of Ladies Home Journal and other favorite publications.

“The Artist in Arlington

“What more timely theme could be invoked for memorial advertising in November that the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the Arlington Amphitheatre — and what could more effectively endorse and demonstrate the incomparable excellence of Vermont Marble as the nation’s Memory Stone!”

The article goes on to describe how artist John Newton Howitt went to Washington to sketch the area, observing the visitors to the Tomb and the play of light on the marble surfaces. The finished ad was described in this way to the marble dealers:

“Here you see the familiar simplicity of the Unknown Soldier’s resting place. Beyond and above rises the majestic portal of the Memorial Amphitheatre. Autumn leaves strew the ground. Just marching out of the picture a soldier keeps the nation’s ceaseless vigil … and to this hallowed spot the artist brings all the proud womanhood of the land and the sad, sweet memories that stir all hearts from which grief has passed away. Two women, depicted with admirable sympathy, make the entire painting a story of family devotion — and the older of the two lays a wreath upon the marble with the unmatched tenderness of one who touches the brow of a sleeping son.”

Beneath the advertisement’s stirring picture lies the words “Dear son of memory, great heir of fame — Kings for such a tomb would wish to die” — a tribute taken from Milton’s Epitaph to Shakespeare. The ad copy then sums up in “scarcely more than a hundred words the whole story and applies its power to a dignified and effective selling appeal on behalf of the retailers of Vermont Marble memorials.”

The story of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is the subject of a new exhibit to be unveiled in May at the Vermont Marble Museum in Proctor. Marble Minutes is designed to share the history of the marble industry in Vermont. It is part of the Dimensions of Marble program, which, through six distinct projects, will bring together the history of the marble quarries and workers, the communities in which they lived, the artistry of sculptors past and present, and the people, who over generations, created a multitude of new projects and brought prosperity to the region. For more information on Dimensions of Marble, visit or email Megan Smith, executive director at

Tribute in the Rough: The Journey from Colorado to Vermont

February 5th, 2010

By CATHY MIGLORIE SPECIAL TO THE HERALD – Published: November 6, 2009

It is February 1931. From the bed of the quarry in Yule, Colo., a 56-ton block of pure white marble, specially chosen for the great shrine that is to become the sarcophagus of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, is about to be raised from the depths. Successful achievement of this task would epitomize the great progress of marble quarrying in America at the time.

Quarrymen were known for their poise and calm when dealing with the huge blocks, averaging in size of 8 to 10 tons, raising them from the quarry floor in sure precision to place carefully on a rail flat car or the quarry edge. Raising the 56-ton block for the Tomb, however, was a task of monumental proportions. The story that follows is taken from National Association of Marble’s monthly publication, “Through the Ages,” published in May 1931.

“To the visitor who is unfamiliar with the handling of stone, seasoned American quarrymen always impress him as a quiet lot going about their business with a nonchalance which quite belies the tremendous power and great masses with which they deal. Watch them, some day, raise an average size block of marble from the quarry floor without a trace of nervousness or the least excitement.

“But one day not so long ago this attitude was lacking among a little group of men working on the cliff face of a Colorado mountain nearly 10,000 feet above sea level. There was a tenseness about them not entirely caused by the snapping cold of mid-winter. To the experienced eye they were about to perform an unusual task. A glance at the derrick revealed its massiveness, its special reinforced bracing, its noticeably heavy rigging. It had been shipped all the way from Vermont expressly for this occasion. The stout boom, also reinforced, leaned out over a quarry opening and from its head dropped the thick cable into the depths below.

“A signal was given. Motors hummed. The cable slowly became taut. The great boom moved ponderously, and expert eyes traveled quickly over every part of the equipment to see that it met the strain without signs of weakening. Control levers were eased forward the merest fraction of an inch; the operator could take no chances with a fatal jerk.

“One hundred and twenty-five feet below on the quarry floor a great white mass groaned, slid an inch or two, then, at a pace scarcely visible, was lifted towards the square of light above. To those watchers on the surface, what seemed a small rectangle of white on the quarry floor slowly grew and grew as it neared the top until it threatened to more than fill the mouth of the quarry. At last it reached the opening, and out into the white light of winter swung the gleaming 56-ton block of Yule, Colo., marble, a nation’s tribute in the rough to that Unknown Soldier who sleeps near the entrance of the Arlington Memorial Amphitheatre.

“It is true that to produce a block of marble weighing 56 tons is not a record-breaking feat in American quarrying; but getting out a block of this size in any quarry involves a vast amount of intensive preparatory work, especially when, as in this case, the quarries are situated high up in almost inaccessible mountain ranges. When this huge piece finally was brought safely to the surface, more than a year had passed since operations had been started to cut it from the bed of the quarry. During that time a railroad had been extended 600 feet along the side of the mountain to connect directly with the quarry opening.

“Another difficult task faced those in charge of the work when it came to lowering the block from the quarry level down the steep incline of the new track to the main line. A special skid of oak timbers was built with one end resting on two small rail-wheels. The block, fastened to this skid, was then snubbed down the spur track to the lower level. Two electric locomotives were brought up to do the hauling. One was attached to the front, another to the rear, and the procession, one end of the massive block riding on the two wheels while the other end dragged on the rails, started over the three-and-a-half-mile course which twists and loops down the mountain to the town of Marble, a drop of 2,000 feet. The road contains several steep grades, one of which is 17 percent, and when the load passed over them the rear locomotive helped to hold back so that absolute control was maintained at every point.

“At Marble, the block was loaded by block and tackle on a regular railroad flat car for its long journey across the country to Vermont. It arrived there in the middle of February. Shortly afterward it was given a final inspection and the unanimous approval of the sculptor, the architect, the contractor, and a representative of the Quartermaster General’s Department.”

Now the craftsmen’s work begins. From the block’s first stop at the West Rutland mill for inspection, to the Proctor shops where much work is completed, and finally the journey to Washington, where the last of the carving is be executed under the direction of the sculptor, Thomas Hudson Jones.

The Vermont Marble Museum is seeking stories of the men who worked on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier for its new exhibit to be unveiled in May 2010. We encourage relatives and friends of the men to share information about them by contacting the Vermont Marble Museum, (802) 459-2300, or

Marble Minutes is designed to share the history of the marble industry in Vermont. It is part of the Dimensions of Marble program, which, through six distinct projects, will bring together the history of the marble quarries and workers, the communities in which they lived, the artistry of sculptors past and present, and the people, who over generations, created a multitude of new projects and brought prosperity to the region. For more information on Dimensions of Marble, visit or e-mail Megan Smith, executive director at

America’s Eternal Flame

February 5th, 2010



President Calvin Coolidge lays a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Nov. 25, 1925.

By CATHY MIGLORIE Special to the Herald – Published: October 30, 2009 Many stories of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier appear in the pages of the Vermont Marble Co.’s old industry newsletter, The Memory Stone. The quarrying of the block of pure white marble from the Vermont Marble Co.-owned Yule, Colo., quarry, the fabrication of the block into the famed sarcophagus and the carving of the sarcophagus details done in Proctor and on site at Arlington National Cemetery, was a major project for the Vermont Marble Co. in the early 1930s. It was appropriate that this story be shared with the industry tradesmen as the story itself unfolded.

On March 4, 1921, the U.S. Congress approved a resolution providing for the burial of an unknown and unidentified American soldier of World War I in Arlington National Cemetery Memorial Amphitheater. On Armistice Day, Nov. 11, 1921, at 8:30 a.m., the casket of this soldier was carried down the steps of the Capitol Building, placed on a horse-drawn caisson, and made the journey to the Memorial Amphitheater under a military escort. general officers of the Army and admirals of the Navy acted as pallbearers, and noncommissioned officers of the Navy and Marine Corps were body bearers. President Warren G. Harding officiated at this, the first internment ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, where he conferred upon the Unknown Soldier the Congressional Medal of Honor.

The simple white marble tomb, placed over the resting place of the Unknown Soldier immediately after the interment, was planned to serve as a base for an appropriate monument. Soon after the Armistice Day ceremonies on Nov. 11, 1921, planning began for the completion of the tomb, a $50,000 expenditure which was authorized by Congress on July 3, 1926. The government chose as material for the tomb the pure white marble from Yule, Colo. A search commenced for a designer for the tomb, and the contract was awarded to Thomas Hudson Jones, sculptor, and Lorimer Rich, architect, of New York City.

As more and more people came pay their respects at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the need grew for a formal guard program. The tomb was unguarded until 1925, when a civilian was hired to guard the tomb during cemetery hours. On March 24, 1926, a military guard from the Washington Provisional Brigade began guarding the tomb during the daylight hours. In 1937, the tomb was placed under guard 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, but it wasn’t until 1948 that the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment BCT, “The Old Guard,” began guarding the tomb in concurrence with its mission: “conducts ceremonies in order to maintain the traditions of the U.S. Army, showcase the Army to our nation’s citizens and the world, and to defend the dignity and honor of our fallen comrades.”

The early guard ceremony was described as thus in an advertisement in the Oct. 1928 issue of The Memory Stone:

“America’s Eternal Flame”

“Pacing … pacing, day by day, a soldier keeps the nation’s ceaseless vigil. He represents the eternal flame of American Manhood, ever-youthful, ever-renewed, here at the shrine dedicated to the memory of all our battle-heroes.

“Moment by moment the footbeats of the guard, like the pulse of the living nation, will measure off centuries beside the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and this great Memorial Amphitheatre. Both were built of Vermont Marble.

“After long research by Government experts, Vermont Marble was selected because of its inspiring beauty and tested ability to endure for unmeasured time … America’s noblest Memory Stone!”

The monument as we know it today was not complete until the sarcophagus was actually placed in 1931, but accounts of the tomb and its significance as a shrine to Americans and others appeared many times on the pages of The Memory Stone.

In December 1926, an article titled “The Monument Everyone Sees” stated:

“On the front cover is a picture of Queen Marie of Roumania at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Like the other well-known people who have crossed the seas to study us, Her Majesty declined to leave Washington until she stood for a moment by the great international shrine in Arlington Cemetery.

“The Queen of Roumania is a well-advertised personage. Like the Prince of Wales, she is greeted wherever she goes by throngs of well-wishers. That is what comes of having a humanly regal personality. That is why the newspapers keep her name in the headlines and transmit to the far corners of the land the story of her conquest of America. She may call it a pleasure trip. No doubt it was planned partly for that, but who can say it has no deeper significance.

“Let it be understood that in the likeness on the cover and in the little pictures on this page the people are but secondary to the tomb. To that plain white marble have come pilgrims not alone from widely separated national organizations, but from practically all foreign lands.”

To further illustrate the international significance of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the June 1927 issue features a full page of photos of esteemed persons and groups visiting the tomb. Moving photos captioned with the following titles of those visitors include Gen. Machado of Cuba; World War Veterans of the Second Division, U.S.A.; Señor Don Beltran Mathieu, ambassador from Chile; Sir James A. M. Elder, Australian commissioner; as well as a photo entitled “The Children’s Tribute,” and one simply captioned, “Guard Duty.”

Even later, in October 1929, the cover of The Memory Stone promotes the use of Vermont Marble in Arlington with a photo of King George of England and these words inside: “Our cover this month shows King George of England placing a wreath on the Unknown Soldier’s Tomb in the National Cemetery, Arlington, Va. It never occurred to us until now that whoever pays homage to America’s hero must stand on Vermont marble and rest his eyes on marble from Colorado.”

The story of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is the subject of a new exhibit to be unveiled in May at the Vermont Marble Museum in Proctor. In coming weeks, Marble Minutes will feature excerpts from the Vermont Marble Co. publication “The Memory Stone.” Marble Minutes is designed to share the history of the marble industry in Vermont. It is part of the Dimensions of Marble program, which, through six distinct projects, will bring together the history of the marble quarries and workers, the communities in which they lived, the artistry of sculptors past and present, and the people, who over generations, created a multitude of new projects and brought prosperity to the region. For more information on Dimensions of Marble, visit or e-mail Megan Smith, executive director at