Page:History of Iowa From the Earliest Times to the Beginning of the Twentieth Century Volume 3.djvu/69

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mission to the inclosure to see the unique figure of the “Onondaga or Cardiff Giant.”

Fort Dodge and its gypsum deposits gained a world wide notoriety from the “Cardiff Giant,” but it was the enterprise of three of its own citizens that developed from the gypsum ledges one of the great industries of the State. For more than a quarter of a century it had been known that extensive deposits of gypsum existed along the Des Moines River in the vicinity of Fort Dodge, and the stone had long been used in the construction of houses and foundations of business blocks. But no attempt had been made to utilize it for other purposes and little additional value attached to lands underlaid with the mineral.

In 1871, Webb Vincent, S. T. Meservey and George S. Ringland formed a partnership for the purpose of grinding and preparing the gypsum for plaster. They erected a mill near the railroad and began to manufacture stucco for use in making a hard finish for plastering buildings. For a long time but little demand was found for the product, but by some ingenious experiments stucco was produced which gradually found a good market. Theirs was the first mill for the production of stucco west of Grand Rapids, Michigan. The new State House at Des Moines, then being constructed, was one of the first public buildings in which it was used. In 1880 the firm organized “The Iowa Plaster Company” and a second mill was erected which had five times the capacity of the first. The new mill was equipped with improved machinery and the industry grew under the enterprising direction of its managers until their trade reached the distant markets of the world and became one of the most formidable and profitable of the manufacturing industries of the State. Other mills were erected until more than $1,200,000 of capital is employed in the business, furnishing work for more than 1,200 men. The deposits extend over a large tract of country and the supply of gypsum is practically inexhaustible. So great has been the growth