Just west of the Delaware Water Gap between New Jersey and Pennsylvania, there is a region known as the Slate Belt. Settled by Welsh, Italian, and German immigrants in the latter part of the 19th century, they built communities that thrived on the slate industry until the Great Depression when the economy faltered and cheaper materials became more readily available. At the height of the industry there were as many as two hundred and fifty slate quarries in operation. Today there is only one that remains in operation. The rest of these open-pits are abandoned and have been filled in by summer rains and natural spring-water.
My grandfather, an Italian immigrant who arrived in 1901, spent his life as a cable hoist engine operator that lifted up the heavy slate stones weighing several tons until his retirement in 1985 at the age of 97. It is here, at his quarry, that I began to photograph perhaps the “last quarrymen” in the region of eastern Pennsylvania that is known as the Blue Mountains.
All images and text © Michael Ruggiero
By Michael Ruggiero
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