Techniques > Systems > Finishes > Historic Literature and Graphics >

Paint in Vermont, 1861
Hager, Albert D. Report on the Geology of Vermont, 1861, "Paints," pp.806-810; "Brandon Ore Beds," pp. 823-827.


Calcining Brandon yellow ochre (on palette knife) to red iron oxide (in pan).

Pigments of various kinds are found in different parts of the State, and, in many cases, in such quantity as to be profitably worked. They, are mostly confined to the tertiary deposits, and consist mainly of alumina and variable proportions of the oxyds of iron and manganese. Several establishments for the manufacture of yellow and red paints were in successful operation, near the abandoned iron mines in East Bennington, at the time of our visit. It is estimated that six hundred tons of paints were prepared and sent to market from this State during the year 1857.

The material for these paints from Bennington is obtained from “knobs” or swells of land near the base of the Green Mountains, and in the valley of Roaring Branch, in Woodford. The beds of ochre are opened, and the material suitable for paint is taken from thence and conveyed in wheelbarrows to sluices somewhat resembling those used for washing gold from auriferous gravel. But there is this difference in the two operations: in the latter the worthless material washes off down the sluice and the precious metal lodges upon the bottom; but in this ease the worthless material, in the form of pebbles, iron ore, sand, &c., settles at the bottom, and the substance valuable for paint is taken up by the water and carried along down the sluice. Spouts conduct this water, holding the paint in suspension, for considerable distance into large vats, where it is suffered to remain and the paint to settle at the bottom. The water is then decanted, and the sediment at the bottom of the vats allowed to dry till it assumes the consistency of thick mud or clay, when it is cut into pieces about the size of bricks, and laid upon shelves to dry in buildings prepared for the purpose. When perfectly dry it is run through a mill and packed in barrels for market. This is yellow paint, and very similar to the paints called French, or spruce-yellow, so much used for painting floors in Vermont.

Red paint is also manufactured in large quantities at these establishments. This is done by taking the dried lumps of yellow paint and putting them into large ovens and calcining them. By this process more oxygen is acquired by the ochre through the agency of heat; and the result is that red paint is produced closely resembling the variety called Venetian-red.

Brandon Paints

Paints are extensively manufactured in Brandon by the “Brandon Iron and Car Wheel Company;” and in this town there is found a greater variety of material suitable for pigments than in any other in the State, and probably greater than at any other place in New England.

By the following list and description, taken from a Circular of the Company, it will be seen that several colored paints are produced; and we will here remark that the testimony of those who have used them fully sustains the assertions made respecting their value and durability:

   “Brandon Yellow. This paint has more body than any other yellow, and makes a hard and durable paint for floors, outside work, &c.
“ Brandon Brown – has the best body of any mineral paint known, takes less oil than other paints, and is, therefore, the cheapest paint in use.
“Brandon Red. This paint, when mixed with oil, forms one of the most adhesive coverings that has yet been discovered for painting on wood, iron, or tin, and is a better protection to them than red lead, as it adheres better.
“Brandon Roofing Paint. This paint can be mixed with raw oil, without grinding, and forms a very hard and excellent fireproof covering, particularly adapted for roofs of houses and cars, decks of steamboats, &c.
   “Brandon Umber (raw and burnt.) This pigment, used alone as a drier in boiling oil, in the usual tray, one-fourth pound to the gallon, is one of the best drying substances known; and, after being used in boiling oil, can also be used as a paint, without loss, as the heating does not harden it. It is slightly darker in shade than Turkey umber, but is much purer than the common article of commerce; and in light tints, in white lead or zinc, it makes a much handsomer color than the best Turkey umber. It is ground fine, and put up in packages of various sizes, from twenty-five to three hundred pounds.
 “ The Brandon paints having been thoroughly tested and approved, the company have entered largely into their manufacture, and present them to the public with great Confidence as the best paints in the market.
“These paints are composed of alumina, protoxyd and peroxyd of iron, and deutoxyd of manganese, in variable proportions, constituting the varieties offered for sale. They form with oil not a simple mixture, but a chemical union not easily decomposed, and hence their durability then exposed to the action of the atmosphere, or of water. They differ from the ochres by being in part constituted of deutoxyd of manganese, which forms with oil one of the strongest and most adhesive compounds of oil and the metallic oxyds.
“ All the constituent parts of these paints unite and form a chemical union and definite compound with oil, and differ widely, in this respect, from paints of which silica is a basis, which ingredient has no amenity for, and forms no combination with, oil.
   “ The Brandon paints possess, in an eminent degree, all the qualities requisite for the protection of wood and iron, and experience proves their superiority on iron, tin, brick wood, cloths, &c., and they are excellent substitutes for red lead or brown zinc, to which they are far superior, either above or under water. They are ground fine, have good body, cover well, and are more durable and much cheaper than white lead or any paint having white lead or zinc for a basis.
“The colors are permanent and unfading, and are particularly adapted for outside work, railroad and other bridges, ships, decks of steamers, cars, carriages, fences, roofs, &c. Muslin, when painted with two coats of Brandon paint, makes a light and water-proof covering, much superior to the heavy tarpaulin so much used.
“The paint has been extensively users in and about gas holders, to the entire satisfaction of gas companies; and machinists, carriage, omnibus, and car-builders, give it a preference on account of its heavy body, which, being well adapted for rubbing down, gives a beautiful and enduring enameled surface. It adheres firmly to iron, arid is the best paint in use for the protection of that metal.
   “The red and yellow, mixed together, make the best stain known, and are highly prized for that purpose by cabinet and sash makers. The colors are well adapted for station houses, cottages, cars, bridges, and. are particularly deserving the attention of railroad companies, as also of builders, and both house and ship painters, painted carpet manufacturers, and dealers in paints, &c.
“The dry paints require only to be mixed with oil, without grinding, for use. The roofing paint is used with raw oil, and is the best article known for painting tin, roofs of cars, sheds, houses, &c., and is also a great protection against fire.
“They contain none of the poisonous qualities of white lead, and their use is not attended with any of the fatal consequences attendant upon the use of that article. A given quantity will cover a very much larger surface than either lead or zinc.
"Owing to the superior facilities possessed by the company, in the manufacture of these paints, they are enabled to furnish them at as low rates as other and inferior paints are sold."
These paints have been extensively used on the lighthouse buildings on the New England coast, by order of the U. S. Government, and. by the principal railroad and machine shops, &c. &c., and have in all cases given entire satisfaction.
“Persons desirous of making trial of these paints, will be furnished with samples for that purpose, upon application at the Company’s offices.”

Much of the material now used for the manufacture of the red and yellow paints, is obtained by washing the iron ore preparatory to its being smelted. It is necessary to wash the hematite that is found imbedded in a matrix of ochre, before it is smelted; but we think the company at Brandon is the first and only one in the State that saves the material washed off, for paint. From the washing machine the liquor is conducted to vats, and subjected to processes similar to those already described at the Bennington paint works.

In addition to the oxyds of iron, there are other pigments found in Brandon, among which is umber, a rare mineral paint, composed principally of' the oxyds of iron and manganese, and very valuable as a drier. Most of the umber in market has heretofore berg obtained at the Island of Cyprus. The annual sales of Brandon paints amount to about twelve hundred barrels. A short time before our visit to the words, they filled an order for two hundred and forty barrels, which was sent to England — forty of which was umber.

Numerous other “ paint beds ” are found in the State, but the foregoing embraces a notice of the places where paint is prepared for market. There is probably not a bed of hematite in Vermont that would not furnish material for red and yellow paints, and probably there may be other beds of umber in the vicinity of those iron beds where manganese enters largely into the composition of the ore — or where, like the locality at Brandon, the manganese is found in isolated beds, independent of the iron ore. Ochre beds often exist where workable ore is not found.

Curits’ Paint

On a hill, a few rods east of North Dorset village, there is a substance which has been called “a remarkable vein of iron ore, that has become mostly disintegrated and converted into ochre.” this vein has been penetrated horizontally one hundred and fifty feet, and perpendicularly one hundred feet, without any perceptible difference in its character for that distance.

This vein, which has a uniform thickness of about three feet, and stands perpendicular between walls of a calcareous quartz rock, has the appearance of a porphyritic dike; hence we were disposed to call it a dike of “plastic porphyry,” or lithomarge. It has various shades of red, yellow, gray, and white, that are irregularly blended together — in some places producing a reddish-chocolate color, and in others distinct crystalline grains of white occur in a reddish or yellowish ground, having the exact appearance of porphyry. It has a fine texture, soft and rather unctuous to the touch, and can be cut and polished with a knife, without injuring its edge. In this dike there are found concretionary masses that cannot be easily cut, but are very solid, and closely resemble cinnabar in texture and in color.

The substance forming this dike is dug out and sold. In its crude state by the proprietor, Daniel Curtis, Esq., to parties in New York who grind and sell it for paint. We cannot, from personal observation, attest to its durability, but were told that it proved durable upon long exposure. We think it might be valuable to manufacturers of vulcanized India rubber, or in the manufacture of earthen and stoneware, if used in the place of kaolin

In several places in the State, we have found a reddish substance, which we were inclined to call red kaolin, but which we suspect may have been identical with the substance forming the Curtis “paint dike.”

Paint and Manganese

Palmer House, East Dorset, Vermont (2004)
In Dorset, not far from the residence of Hon. L. B. Armstrong, we found a reddish substance, that in places entered into the composition of the limestone, and in others was quite pure, having no grit, and being quite friable. We suspect this may have had an origin and character like that found at North Dorset.

In the marble quarry of Messrs. Holley, Fields, Kent, on Mount Eolus, we found in the cavities existing there a substance very similar to that under consideration, which we now think was the remnant of a small dike composed of this soft substance, but which is now mostly washed away. Contiguous to this red substance in the quarry, and along the joints in which it is found, the marble is considerably stained with a reddish coloring matter — in some eases to the thickness of five or six inches. Had this substance been deposited during the tertiary period, why would it have communicated the red stain to the hard marble? Is it not more plausible to suppose that a dike filled the fissure in the semi-plastic marble, and communicated the stain at that time? And since that time, owing to the unresisting nature of this soft dike, has it not been weathered out, with only fragments left to attest its former existence?

In Waitsfeld, about one mile north-east of the village, on land of Joseph Hesselton, we were shown an “ochre bed” by Daniel Richardson, Esq., which we think may have been an outcrop or remnant of a mass of lithomarge, similar to that of North Dorset.

Since the foregoing was written, we learn from Mr. Curtis, of North Dorset, that he has found another paint dike a few rods east of the one before described. It is of about the same size and character as the first one which he opened, and the two run through the rock nearly parallel to each other. They are both nearly perpendicular, and run N. 25º E. The limestone that incases these dikes has in it numerous joints that seem parallel to the dikes, which circumstance renders plausible the supposition that they are intrusive masses, and not sedimentary deposits.


This metal in its pure state is fine-grained, hard and brittle, and of a grayish-white color like cast iron. It has great amenity for oxygen, and is never found in beds except when combined with it. Of the ores of manganese there are many varieties, of which the following are the most common:

The Deutoxyd or Pyrolusite; the Sesqui-oxyd, in combination with a base, or Psilomelane; the Sesqui-oxyd or Braunite; the hydroxyd or Manganite; the Sulphuret or Manpanblend; the Carbonate or Diallogite; and the Earthy Oxyd or Wad.

Pyrolusite, one of the most valuable varieties of manganese ore, is of a bluish-gray color with a metallic luster, and a granular or subcrystalline structure, with occasional incrustations of minute steel-gray crystals lining cavities or traversing open fissures. It is usually associated with beds of brown hematite, or with other ores of manganese.

Psilomelane, which is found associated with the above, occurs in smooth, black, botryoidal or mammillary masses, which, upon a fresh fracture, present a compact structure resembling that of hard iron or steel. A specimen from Brandon, analyzed by Prof. Olmsted, gave the following results. . .

Brandon Ore Beds [pp.823-827]

About one-fourth of a mile from the Mitchell bed, in a northerly direction, there is an impure hematite, into which silex enters in large proportions. It occurs in mammillary masses, imbedded in arenaceous quartz. Too much silex enters into its composition to make it valuable for smelting, unless it be used as a flux. Prof. Olmsted analyzed specimens of this, and also some of the hematite from the solid mass alluded to by Prof. Adams, with the following results:

                                               Solid Ore.   Silicious Ore.
Peroxide of Iron                         84.90                 37.81
Alumina                                          .47                 trace
Silica                                              .75                 55.81
Water                                         13.88                  6.38
                                                 100.00              100.00
Metalic Iron                                 58.66                26.84      

In Brandon there is an excellent development of hematite, and associated with it, in beds contiguous, are vast quantities of kaolin, ochre, manganese, and brown coal. These have been more extensively and successfully worked than any other similar beds in the State. “ The Brandon Iron and Car Wheel Company” own and work the principal beds in the town. To John Howe, Esq., the efficient and gentlemanly agent for the company in Brandon, we are indebted for the following description of the ore beds, their history, &c.

“ Iron ore was first discovered in Brandon in 1810, and soon after a forge was built, and. bar-iron of a superior quality was manufactured for several years. In 1820 a furnace was built by John Conant, Esq., for reducing the ore, an undertaking which at that time was deemed one of great hazard; but he persevered with characteristic energy and judgment, and with complete success; and it is to this furnace, long well known as “ Conant’s Furnace,” that Brandon is indebted for an impetus then given to its business, and for its continuous growth and prosperity.

“In 1850 the furnace property, iron, and manganese mines, deposits of kaolin, &c., were purchased from the old proprietors, Messrs. John Conant & Sons, by the Brandon Iron and Car Wheel Company, who are now the only manufacturers in the United States of cold blast charcoal iron from brown hematite ores, on account of the growing scarcity of charcoal in the neighborhood of all ores of this class — a scarcity from which this company is exempt, by early and judicious purchases of over twenty-one hundred acres of heavily timbered woodlands, the timber upon which, with its natural increase, will supply charcoal for the furnace as long as wanted.

“ The charter under which the company is organized was obtained from the Legislature of Vermont in 1851. Acts in addition thereto were obtained in 1852 and 1853, by which the company are empowered to hold real estate to the amount in value of two hundred thousand dollars, and the stockholders are exempted from al] individual liability. The amount of capital paid in is one hundred and seventy-five thousand dollars, represented by seventeen hundred and fifty shares of the par value of one hundred Dollars each. Of this amount, $140,840 has been paid for real estate, appropriate but not expensive buildings, well contrived machinery, fixtures, &c.

“ In real estate the company own two thousand five hundred and ten acres woodlands, situated in the towns of Brandon, Chittenden, Hancock, Ripton, and Goshen, and prig hundred and two and one-half acres of mineral land, two and a half miles from the village, including the mining rights in a lot of sixteen acres, one rood, twenty-four rods, forty-seven feet, situated in Brandon, and forming one lot called the Caught lot. This land embraces an inexhaustible supply of the valuable variety of iron ore known by the name of brown hematite; also, distinct there from, an extensive deposit of black oxyd of manganese. There is, also, an inexhaustible deposit of pure white kaolin, or porcelain clay, and fire clay and fire sand, and many thousand tons of pigments, including umber and ochre, that require only washing and drying to prepare them for paints.

 “In connection with the clay and iron ores, there is an extensive bed of lignite, or brown coal, which has been followed from near the surface to a depth of over eighty feet. Several years past it has furnished the fuel at the mines for raising the ore and driving all the machinery. In connection, also, with the mines, and for the purpose of economically working them, the company have constructed an engine and boiler house — the latter of brick — and buildings adjoining, covering the machinery and two shafts.

“ The company own furnace property in the center of the village of Brandon, about ninety rods from the station of the Rutland and Burlington Railroad, and an establishment for the manufacture of fire brick near the railroad station.”

They also own buildings and fixtures for elutriating and preparing for market paints and paper clay (elutriated kaolin), which they are manufacturing in large quantities, and for which there is found a ready sale.

From C. Brownson, Esq., the intelligent superintendent of the mining operations, we obtained many facts of interest pertaining to the mine, and also a plan of the beds, of which the cut

The rock (1) upon which the beds repose, is the same ferruginous limestone everywhere found in the State beneath hematite. It has a strike N. 30º E., and dips 40º S.E. Immediately upon the limestone — which in this mine is occasionally very silicious — there is found a bed of ochre from six to twenty feet thick.

In some places, portions of the ochre (2) are nearly black, having in its composition considerable manganese; in other places it is yellow (3), being nearly a pure oxyd of iron.

Next above the ochre, and nearly conformable with the limestone beneath, is found the hematite or iron ore (4), which has a variable thickness, and, as will be seen by referring to the cut, it also has an irregular outline.

In some places the bed of hematite has been penetrated to the depth of one hundred. and four feet. The main bed is known to be six hundred feet in length, and over one hundred feet in width in some places. Ore of a superior quality is found in this bed, and the iron made from it is remarkably tough, and. well suited for the manufacture of ear wheels, cannon, machinery and weighing scales, for which it has lately been principally used.

Next above the hematite is found the bed of kaolin or white clay (5), which is quite extensive, and has an average dip of about 40º S.E. In this bed of kaolin a which comes to the surface in several places, is a mass of lignite or brown coal (L) about twenty-five feet square, standing in a perpendicular column, and extending down obliquely through it.

A bed of quartz sand (8) of considerable size is found resting upon the kaolin, and several small deposits are fount' in beds adjacent. It is also sometimes found mixed with kaolin. It is valuable for moulding sand, and has been considerably used in the manufacture of fire-brick, for which it is admirably suited. In the be6s of sand are found small masses of arenaceous quartz, that still retain their rocky form, but so friable as to be readily separated with the fingers.

When sand is found mixed with kaolin, the latter is usually stained more or less with ochre, and in some instances it is found of a dark-red color.

A bed of reddish kaolin (6) is found resting upon the southern side of the main bed. of hematite, and. overlying a bed. of “dead ore” (7). This dead ore — which is found more or less in all hematite beds — is worthless for smelting, and intelligent miners assert that it always occurs “where the water is cut off from the bed.” It is claimed by many miners, that all hematite beds are injured by taking the water from them, and that when mines are temporarily abandoned, water should be suffered to accumulate in them for the preservation of the ore.

In a southerly direction from the bed just described, and not more than sixty rods distant, is located the Forestdale or Blake ore bed. In this there is the same sequence of ochre, ore, kaolin, &c., that exists in the former bed, and the dip and appearance of the bed-rock beneath both are similar. In the midst of the kaolin is a mass of brown coal, closely resembling that found in the northern bed, but not so extensive a deposit. To de-scribe these beds, and the order of their recurrence, would in substance be a repetition of what has already been said respecting the northern bed.

The Blake bed is not worked at present, neither for ore nor for any of the associated minerals, but doubtless contains large deposits of both.

Aside from these two principal beds of ore, there are numerous smaller beds of hematite, ochre, manganese, &c., found in this vicinity, some of which are quite valuable.

Small deposits of iron ore exist in Leicester, Salisbury, Middlebury and Bristol, but none that are extensive. Manganese and yellow ochre are very abundantly disseminated with the iron ore found at these places, and would doubtless prove valuable in the manufacture of paints.

In the south part of Monkton, near Bristol line, is a bed of iron ore owned by “The Boston Iron Company,” but not worked at present. Professor Thompson gave the following description of the ore: “Ochery varieties occur, but it is mostly the hematitic brown oxyd. The color of the surface of the ore is a velvet-black, and that of the interior a brownish-black. Its structure is fibrous and commonly radiated. This ore makes excellent iron, and is manufactured at Bristol and. other places. Connected with this ore is found the black oxyd of manganese.” From the description given of the ore, we should infer that iron made from the “velvet”-colored variety weald be too hard and brittle to be successfully used for stove plates and soft castings. We strongly suspect manganese entered largely into the composition of the ore, and produced the beautiful black color. The bed is not favorably situated for drainage, but is supposed to contain considerable quantity of ore.

Like the deposits of carbonate of lime which form the heels of marble in Vermont, the ferruginous limestone beds also thin out as they approach the north part of the State; and, as might be expected — if our conjectures are well founded as to their origin — the beds of hematite are less numerous and extensive in the north, than in the middle and southern portions.

Hematite beds probably exist in Hinesburgh, Huntington and Williston, but we know of no good developments of them in these towns.

A deposit of ore of good quality, but not extensive, is found in Colchester, about one mile north of the depot, on land of Mr. J. Barnes. It occurs in a recess between two considerable spurs of silicious limestone. It is probable that the bed was originally much more extensive than at present, but was removed by drift agency, as there are found numerous fragments of the ore in drift south of the bed.

In Milton, Georgia, Swanton, St. Albans, Franklin and Highgate, small deposits of ore are found, but the beds are all small, and probably not valuable for working.

In the southern part of Plymouth, east of the Green Mountains, is a deposit of hematite of considerable extent. It was worked for several years by Isaac Tyson, Esq., but the beds are now abandoned, and the furnace buildings are fast going to decay. As before suggested, we regard this as an outlier and counterpart of the extensive tertiary deposit found upon the west side of the mountains. Quartz sand, 1-aolin and manganese are found associated with the iron, and occur in beds nearly conformable with the beds of rock beneath. J. W. Stickney, Esq., of Plymouth, informs us that in driving an acquit from the east, the workmen, after passing through the drift, encountered a bed of kaolin and quartz sand, having a thickness of about five rods. Through this bed the adit was driven, and after passing through an ochre bed the hematite was reached. Repeats the ore there divas a bed of ochre resting upon, and conformable with the bed-rock which dips about 40º E. So much manganese enters into the composition of the ore that it is not always valuable for the manufacture of soft iron, and it was necessary to assort, thy ore, and separate the manganese from the hematite, before the latter could be advantageously smelted. There were portions of the bed in which a good hematite was found, as chill be seen from the following analysis of a specimen of the brown hematite, by T. S. Hunt, of the Geological Survey of Canada:

Peroxyd of iron,                                  83.03
Silica                                                     2.53
Water                                                  14.50

Other beds of hematite may exist, and indeed we know that some small ones do exist, that are not particularly described; but we have given those that are the most valuable and accessible.

Bog Ore

  To describe minutely the numerous beds of bog ore found in the State, would be a difficult task, for in every count scores of them are found. But with the full conviction that not one of these numerous beds is valuable for smelting, or would produce iron enough to defray the expense, even if the furnace were built and ready to receive the ore, we deem it useless to minutely describe even one of them.

Unlike the beds of hematite, bog ore beds are confined to no particular rock formation, and are found upon the mountains and. in the valleys. In every marshy spot, where rocks containing pyrites or carbonate of iron are contiguous, there may be found more or less of the earthy oxyd of iron. It even enters largely into the composition of the soil in some localities, and gives to it the yellow color. But while it is so generally distributed through the State, it is a little remarkable that no beds have ever been found that were of a magnitude that would warrant an outlay of much capital to work them.

  © 2002-2012 Heritage Stewardship     contact