Beautiful old mountains flanking the waterway held a wealth of raw materials at a time when the new Republic expanded exuberantly. Quarries yielded blue limestone for the New York State Capitol, marble for monuments and slate for roofs and headstones. Abundant iron ore fed furnaces and foundries whose output of tools, machinery, nails and rails propelled nation westward. Rich veins of graphite supplied the crucibles needed to cast steel as well as the pencils that made Ticonderoga a household word.
The time was ripe for innovation. Iron masters worked on improvements in furnace design. Electricity charged a magnet for separating ore. Water proved the most expedient way to "float" graphite free of its impurities. Inventive tradesmen turned their minds and hands to devising ore concentrators, electric motors, rail-car couplers and pneumatic tubes.