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The Story of Bangor,

 Pennsylvania Slate

   

As you enter the Bangor area, you are welcomed first by this sign

Before we explain our products to you, we feel it necessary to formally introduce ourselves and explain a little about this fascinating rock formation we call slate. Most likely you have not given much thought to this stone. Like so many things which surround us in na≠ture, we simply take them for granted. However, if you look about, the use of slate appears in many places. Perhaps the roof of your very own home is covered with roofing slate. Slate has proven valuable as a superior roofing

It is common to see thousands of homes protected with beautiful long lasting slate roofs in the Eastern part of our country.

 material, often lasting hundreds of years. There are records of slate roofs in England and Wales which date back hundreds of years still in good condition. Perhaps you have walked on slate floors many times, for it makes an excellent flooring material. Quite often it is used in public buildings where floor traffic is the heaviest. In many residential homes, the first thing to greet you is the warm and earthy welcome of a slate foyer floor. Yet an≠other place of extensive use most worthy of mention is the slate blackboard. Used by schools for hundreds of years, slate has played a major role in our educational system. Students used little personal slate chalkboards before paper became common. Just imagine the amount of information conveyed between teacher and student on slate blackboards throughout the years.

Years ago, because paper was scarce, the children used little school slates to practice their lessons. This particular school slate was bound with yarn to reduce the noise  when closing. It is interesting to know, pencils made of slate were used as a writing instrument.

Yes, we have used slate in our every≠day lives often, never giving it a second thought. We would like to change all that as you read on, and then examine our products.

We are the Capozzolo Brothers Slate Company. Our quarry operation exists just a few miles outside of the old slate mining town known as Bangor, Pennsylvania. The Bangor area is located in the Eastern portion of Pennsylvania; nestled at the foothills of the famous Pocono Mountains and just a few miles west of the great Delaware Water Gap. Quite often the Bangor area is referred to as the Slate Belt; so named for the heavy mining activity which once took place here. Our family has been mining slate for several generations and at the present time, we operate the last true Bangor slate quarry still in production.

Here you have a groups of Slaters in the early 1900's. Their jobs were hard and dangerous, as the quarries were hundred of feet deep. Most of the men were welsh immigrants who came to America seeking a new life full of opportunities.

Slate mining has been a tradition in Bangor for nearly 150 years. Before the discovery of slate only a small farming community existed here. That all changed, seemingly overnight upon the strike of slate in the mid 1850ís. Soon hundreds of Welsh, English and Italian slate miners moved in. The little village grew rapidly as houses, stores, schools and churches were built to accommodate the daily arrival of new immigrants. The little village which now appeared to be a growing metropolis was renamed Bangor, for it reminded the new people of Bangor, Wales; a very prominent slate mining town in the British Isles where most of the miners originated. Many quarries were dug and the Bangor area became quite prosperous for the slate found often proved very good. Soon Bangor slate earned a reputation as the finest slate available. Architects often specified it by name, thus adding to the already great demand. 

But what made Bangor slate so valued? The answer to this question is its ability to be split into very thin slabs without breaking. To better understand this mystery we must take you back 400 million years. Science claims that the Bangor area was once covered by a vast inland sea. As years passed, sediment slowly layered the ocean floor, eventu≠ally becoming thousands of feet thick. Time, heat and tremendous pressure turned this layered clay-like material into very hard beds of stone. This unique layered formation would later be the very reason that man could split this stone into thin sheets of roofing slate, school blackboards, floor tiles and many other useful items.  

Huge slate blackboards are utilized in many classrooms even to this day. Although most of us have stared at blackboards throughout our school days, we seldom think of where they come from or how they are made. 

 Bangorís slate industry would enjoy many successful years, however prosperity would not last forever. In the early 1900ís many new and less expensive man made products would appear on the marketplace. The demand for late steadily dropped off. Soon many jobs for the higher paying factory jobs which became available.

Although the slate industry declined and very few slate quarries currently exist in the entire U.S.A., a legacy was left behind to remind us of these rugged pioneers and the products they produced. Much of what they made is still in use today. If you travel through the Slate Belt today, you will see high mounds of slate pieces scattered about the countryside. They will forever stand as monuments to this great industry and an era when the lifestyle in Bangor revolved around the slate quarries.

Here at our slate company, the tradition goes on as we quarry in much the same way as was done years before. Each stone, often weighing tons, is uncovered where it lay hidden through≠out time. It is then pried loose from its resting place with simple tools such as chisels, hammers and steel bars. The work is very hard and dangerous and requires much experience. Every slate we produce is split by hand as no machine can match the eye of a skilled Slater.

Traditionally at our quarry we are producers of slate flooring. However in recent years we have added very unique slate gifts to our product line. Our novelty line came about quite unintentionally when as youngsters we would create gifts of slate for our special friends and loved ones. Well, everyone seemed delighted with our gifts and soon they began to ask us to create gifts for their special friends. So it began, first with friends and neighbors and soon the local townspeople began to come. We now have a quarry gift shop which many people around the world come to visit. Many of our customers send our gifts to friends in other countries or take them along with them when they travel. Our gifts truly reflect a part of America old and new and will always provide great conversation. The comments from our customers are always the same. Those who receive the gift of slate were genuinely happy to have received a handmade slate gift from America.

Some Quarries now are reservoirs, which hold excellent drinking water for local communities

We truly believe the interest in our slate gifts grew simply because they satisfy every requirement a well thought out gift should. Not only are they personal gifts with a historical significance, they are very beautiful to look at. Each gift is assured to be original for no two slates ever share the same grain pattern, somewhat like snowflakes or fingerprints on a human. This is mother natureís contribution, as she adds her artistic flare to everything we create. 

Much of the stone extracted was inferior and was discarded. Each quarry had a huge heap of rubbish stone near the pit. These slate hills are scattered throughout the Slate Belt Area.

We hope we have shared some of our knowledge of this fascinating stone with you. The more you know about a product the better you can appreciate the hard work and effort that goes into its creation. Our family is very proud to carry on this ancient craft of slate mining which dates back to the year 1200 in Wales. It is also comforting to know that no pollution occurs during the slate mining process. The many abandoned slate quarries now serve as water reservoirs that support fish and water fowl. The high piles of waste slate now make excellent habitat for animals who like to make dens such as fox, rabbits and mice.

 

jzolo@epix.net

Phone: 1.800.282.6582   Fax: 1.800.588.3971 Local: 610.588.7702