Stone cutters cutting grindstones in Marietta, Washington County, Ohio, ca. 1886-1888.
Grindstones are pieces of sandstone shaped like a wheel. Especially during the 1800s and the early 1900s, individuals and businesses utilized grindstones to sharpen tools and other implements.
In Ohio, the city of Berea became a prominent manufacturer of grindstones. An abundant supply of sandstone existed along the banks of the Rocky River, and beginning in the 1840s, local residents began to quarry the sandstone. Some of the sandstone was used for building materials, while the vast majority of it became grindstones. Berea became known as the “Grindstone Capital of the World.”
Creation of grindstones was a difficult and deadly process. As workers molded the sandstone into the proper shape, a fine sandstone dust would fill the air. Workers breathed this dust into their lungs and, in numerous cases, suffocated to death as their lungs became filled with the dust. This was known as “grindstone consumption.”
By the early 1940s, the sandstone industry began to decline, as businesses began to manufacture and utilize Carborundum wheels to sharpen their implements instead of grindstones. Construction companies also began to utilize concrete rather than sandstone in buildings.