Redfield Proctor founded the Vermont Marble Company, which, by the beginning of the 20th century, had successfully competed against world-known European marble sources to become the world’s largest marble company. He also compiled a notable career as a public servant, serving as Governor of Vermont, Secretary of War in the cabinet of President Harrison, and Senator from Vermont.
Following service in the Civil War, Colonel Proctor returned to his native Vermont to practice law and was appointed receiver of the Sutherland Falls Marble Company. While working to return the company to profitability, he had the vision to see that the time was right to develop a marble industry to serve the nation. Fine marble, waterpower, and sand (for cutting stone) were present, and the railroad had just come into the area. With the acquisition of a second company in 1880, the Vermont Marble Company was born. Whereas the early marble business had consisted of the sale of sawed marble primarily for monument uses, the new company was able to expand its products to include monument finishing and exterior finishing. Vermont marble soon found markets throughout the United States.
In 1882, Proctor traveled to Italy to meet the competition head-on. He was able to recruit highly skilled marble carvers, who were attracted by the certainty of employment and good wages. Other less skilled laborers came to the town of Proctor from Ireland, Sweden, Poland, French Canada, and other nations. The success of the Vermont Marble resulted from the use of modern machines and techniques, such as the coring machines, channeling machines (invented in Vermont), gadders, and mechanical hoists to reduce the labor of men and animals. At the time of Proctor’s death, the company employed some 5,000 workers.
Vermont Marble’s products included monuments, blocks, interior and exterior veneer, columns, and carvings. Skilled marble carvers contributed immeasurably to the fortunes of the company. The company’s sculptors worked on monuments, building details, fine interior statues, altars, and friezes. The Jefferson Memorial, the Arlington Amphitheater, the Red Cross Building, and the Senate Office Building are just a few of the landmark buildings made of Vermont marble.
Redfield Proctor’s public service and political pursuits began when he returned to Vermont after the Civil War. He became a selectman, a member of the state legislature, Lieutenant-Governor, and then Governor of Vermont in 1878. President Harrison appointed him to his cabinet in 1889 as Secretary of War, in which position he was particularly effective in reorganizing the department and reducing corruption by introducing rigorous record-keeping and procurement procedures. He entered the U.S. Senate in 1891, where he was serving at the time of his death. Redfield Proctor’s legacy includes many fine marble buildings throughout the United States, a town bearing his name, and a mining operation that is now part of an international corporation, Omya, Inc. Omya is the world’s largest producer of fine and ultra-fine calcium carbonate (ground marble and limestone) used in contemporary products such as paper, paint, plastic, and pharmaceuticals.