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Finding Aids to Oral Histories in the Smithsonian Institution Archives

Record Unit 9547

Vermont Structural Slate Company Videohistory Collection, 1989

Repository: Smithsonian Institution Archives, Washington, D.C. Contact us at
Title: Vermont Structural Slate Company Videohistory Collection
Dates: 1989
Quantity: 3 videotapes (Reference copies). 5 digital .wmv files and .rm files (Reference copies).
Collection: Record Unit 9547
Language of Materials: English

William E. Worthington, National Museum of American History, conducted a videotaped tour of the VSS quarry in Eureka to document remaining nineteenth-century techniques before the installation of modern equipment. Four employees explain and demonstrate old and new methods and technologies for extracting and processing slate. There is extensive visual documentation of the quarry, its operation, and environs. Interviewees included Brad Bauman, Everett Beayon, Joseph Root, and Raymond Cull.

Historical Note

The Vermont Structural Slate Company (VSS) in Fair Haven, Vermont, was founded in 1859. As of 1989, it was one of only twenty remaining companies nationwide that produced slate. The company operated several quarries, including the oldest active quarry in Vermont, the Eureka quarry, which opened for slate production in 1852. VSS employees have continued to use nineteenth century machinery for most quarrying and manufacturing operations. The owners, however, have attempted to upgrade the facility with more modern equipment.

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The Smithsonian Videohistory Program, funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation from 1986 until 1992, used video in historical research. Additional collections have been added since the grant project ended. Videohistory uses the video camera as a historical research tool to record moving visual information. Video works best in historical research when recording people at work in environments, explaining artifacts, demonstrating process, or in group discussion. The experimental program recorded projects that reflected the Institution's concern with the conduct of contemporary science and technology.

Smithsonian historians participated in the program to document visual aspects of their on-going historical research. Projects covered topics in the physical and biological sciences as well as in technological design and manufacture. To capture site, process, and interaction most effectively, projects were taped in offices, factories, quarries, laboratories, observatories, and museums. Resulting footage was duplicated, transcribed, and deposited in the Smithsonian Institution Archives for scholarship, education, and exhibition. The collection is open to qualified researchers.

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Descriptive Entry

William Worthington, museum specialist at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History (NMAH), recorded quarrying techniques at VSS on October 12 and 13, 1989, to document remaining nineteenth century industrial techniques before the installation of modern equipment. For example, Worthington recorded the operation of the old cableway system that removed slate from the Eureka pit, as well as the more modern use of cranes, diesel shovels, and dump trucks. Worthington also documented various methods and equipment used in making slate shingles.

The videohistory shoot included both interviews with employees and detailed visual documentation of their work, as well as overall tours of the quarry, its operation, and its environs. Brad Bauman, chief engineer, guided Worthington around the site and explained various processes involved in slate manufacture, while Everett Beayon, the last employee familiar with the cableway system, returned from his retirement to demonstrate and explain the operation of the system. Joseph Root described selecting and extracting slate from the quarry, and Raymond Cull demonstrated the signaling system used to communicate with crane operators for the removal of slate from the pit. A number of other employees appeared throughout both sessions, but were not interviewed.

This collection consists of two interview sessions, totalling approximately 4:00 hours of recordings and 63 pages of transcript.

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This collection is indexed under the following access terms. These are links to collections with related topics, persons or places.



Physical Characteristics of Materials in the Collection

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Preferred Citation

Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 9547, Vermont Structural Slate Company Videohistory Collection

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Container List


Session 1: October 12, 1989


At the Eureka Quarry of Vermont Structural Slate Company, documented quarrying operations and equipment, with an emphasis on the older cableway transportation system, c. 1859-1989, including: installation and function of "dead log" anchors for cableway systems; overview of the Eureka quarry pit; "shelf technique" method for slate removal from quarry walls; cableway system for lifting rocks out of the quarry; use of electromagnetic signaling system for communications between quarry floor workers and engine house or crane operators; dumping operation of rubbish box; control of the cableway operations from an engine house. Visual documentation included: features of the cableway carriage; specialized hardware designed for attaching the slate slabs and rubbish box to cranes for removal from the quarry floor; engine house equipment and furnishings.


Transcript, 1-42 pages, of videotape recording, 2 hours 20 minutes.


Recording of Interview: Total Recording Time: 2 hours, 20 minutes

Original Masters: 7 Beta videotapes
Preservation Masters: 7 Motion jpeg 2000 and 7 mpeg digital files
Dubbing Masters: 3 U-matic videotapes
Reference Copies: 2 VHS videotapes, 3 Windows Media Video and 3 Real Media digital files

Session 2: October 13, 1989


In the roofing shed and rubbish heaps at the Vermont Structural Slate Company, documented the process of making slate roofing shingles, c. 1989, including: sawing, splitting, trimming and hole punching of shingles; disposal of waste created in trimming process; preparation ("plugging") of large slate slabs for placement on the roofing; shed conveyor; panorama of VSS grounds with narration; pick-up shots with narration of the "stick" support and the terminus for the cableway system. Visual documentation included: step-by-step tour of all operations in the shingle making process; pallets of imported Spanish slate sold by VSS; overview of other VSS workshops and the area surrounding the Eureka quarry; the "stick" cableway support and the terminus slate rubbish heap.


Transcript, 1-21 pages, of videotape recording, 1 hour, 40 minutes.


Recording of Interview: Total Recording Time: 1 hour, 40 minutes

Original Masters: 5 Beta videotapes
Preservation Masters: 5 Motion jpeg 2000 and 5 mpeg digital files
Dubbing Masters: 2 U-matic videotapes
Reference Copies: 1 VHS videotape, 2 Windows Media Video and 2 Real Media digital files