Industries

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Antimony Mining

Antimony (Sb) is a hard, brittle, silver-white metal with a relatively high specific gravity (6.69) and a relatively low melting temperature. Antimony is a constituent in some alloys. The presence of this metal hardens the alloy, lowers the melting point, and decreases contraction during solidification. The metal’s main use is to impart stiffness and hardness to lead alloys. Antimony compounds are used in medicines, paint pigments, enamelware glazes, and as fireproof coatings on clothing. They are also used in the rubber and patent-leather industries. Many minerals contain antimony; however, stibnite and antimonial lead ores are the main sources of the metal. Stibnite (Sb2S3) and its alteration oxide, stibiconite (Sb3+Sb25+O6(OH)), were the only minerals mined in Arkansas for this metal. Stibnite …

Apple Industry

Seventy-five years after their introduction in Arkansas, apples became a dominant agricultural crop and an economic engine for the northwest part of the state. However, their importance declined measurably in the last half of the twentieth century. The apple of commerce, Malus domestica, is not native to North America. It is a complex hybrid of Malus species with origins in Asia and Europe. Malus domestica was introduced to North America by sixteenth-century explorers and later by colonists. Settlers arriving in Arkansas from Tennessee, the Carolinas, and Georgia brought apple seeds and scion wood with them. The Arkansas Gazette reported in 1822 that apples were being grown on the farm of James Sevier Conway west of Little Rock (Pulaski County). While …

Aquaculture

Aquaculture—the farming of aquatic plants and animals—includes private sector, commercial fish farms, state and federal hatcheries that produce fish to stock public waters, and farm pond owners who stock ponds for recreational fishing. Overall sales place aquaculture in the top ten agricultural industries in the state. Arkansas is the birthplace of warmwater aquaculture in the United States. The first commercial fish farms were built in Arkansas in the 1940s to raise goldfish. The industry in Arkansas has diversified into production of more than twenty species of fish and crustaceans. These species supply food-fish markets, recreational fishing markets and waters, retail pet markets, gardening supply markets, and markets for aquatic weed and snail control. Arkansas ranks second in aquaculture-producing states. It …

Baitfish Industry

Arkansas leads the nation in the farming of bait and feeder fish, providing sixty-one percent of the value of all cultured baitfish in the country. Baitfish are small minnows used as fishing bait to catch predatory game fish such as crappie, catfish, walleye, and largemouth bass. Feeder fish are small fish sold as live food for fish and animals in aquariums and zoos. Six billion bait minnows—predominantly golden shiners, fathead minnows, and goldfish—are raised in Arkansas each year and shipped throughout the country. In 1998, the Census of Aquaculture recorded sixty-two baitfish farms in Arkansas. The annual farm-gate value of Arkansas baitfish production was $23 million; with an economic impact of six to seven times this amount, baitfish production contributes …

Banking

When Arkansas was admitted to statehood in June 1836, the first and second acts of the legislature that year authorized the chartering of two banks: the State Bank of Arkansas and the Real Estate Bank of Arkansas. Capital for the banks was obtained by substituting the credit of the state in the form of Arkansas bonds, to be sold presumably in the East or in the London market. Bond interest and principal were to be paid out of bank profits. The State Bank was government owned; shares of the Real Estate Bank were open to public subscription. Both banks suspended the redemption of their bank notes (currency) in gold and silver coin in 1839 but continued to issue new currency …

Bauxite Mining

Bauxite is the principal ore of aluminum and is a mixture of aluminum oxides and hydroxides that formed from intense chemical weathering of a soil in tropical environments. Soils formed under these conditions are termed laterites. In Arkansas, the aluminum-enriched soils are the result of the decomposition and lateritic weathering of nepheline syenite, an intrusive igneous rock. During the weathering process, leaching by rain, groundwater, and salt spray decomposed the original syenite minerals (feldspar and nepheline). Weathering removed much of the silica and concentrated the newly formed aluminum oxides and hydroxides as the rock termed bauxite. Geologically, the soils formed from syenite and weathered to laterites in the Paleocene Epoch (65–55 million years ago) along the west edge of a …

Beef Industry

aka: Cattle Industry
The raising of beef cattle has been carried out in Arkansas since before the area became an American territory. Though not as prominent as the state’s poultry industry, the beef industry has an estimated $1.4 billion annual economic impact upon Arkansas. Undomesticated bison were present in Arkansas before the arrival of European explorers and settlers. Both the expedition of Hernando de Soto and the Marquette-Joliet expedition reported the presence of these animals. Frenchmen in the area of Arkansas Post judged the land fit for raising cattle, and a general census of Arkansas Post in 1749 lists sixty cows among the livestock kept there. Early Anglo-American settlers brought cattle with them, as did the Cherokee, who began moving to Arkansas in …

Breweries

Beer brewing in Arkansas dates back to the mid-nineteenth century. Documentation on early beer brewing in Arkansas, however, is sparse. In Little Rock (Pulaski County), the Little Rock Brewery operated until 1920. The Joseph Knoble Brewery operated in Fort Smith (Sebastian County) from 1848 to 1881. After that, however, breweries did not begin operating in the state again until well after Prohibition ended in 1933. As German immigrants migrated to and settled in Arkansas, especially in the western portion of the state, many found homesteads near Fort Smith, where the state’s best-known historic brewery is located. Built circa 1848, the Joseph Knoble Brewery served locals until 1881. Joseph Knoble, a native of Wittenberg, Germany, constructed this three-story building using typical …

Brick Industry

Brickmaking in Arkansas began in the early nineteenth century as a much localized industry in which a builder in need of bricks would find a deposit of clay, mold bricks by hand, and fire them in a temporary field kiln, using wood or any other combustible for fuel. In the late nineteenth century, producers who operated as businesses began to appear, and, by 1900, several dozen brick companies operated in the state, with production becoming concentrated in towns where large supplies of clay and/or shale are found. In the twentieth century, brick factories were located in Clarksville (Johnson County), El Dorado (Union County), Fort Smith (Sebastian County), Hope (Hempstead County), Jonesboro (Craighead County), Little Rock (Pulaski County), Malvern (Hot Spring …

Bromine

Bromine (chemical symbol Br) is a highly corrosive, reddish-brown, volatile element found in liquid form. Bromine—along with fluorine, chlorine, and iodine—is part of a family of elements known as the halogens. Arkansas ranks first in the world in the production of bromine, the basis for many widely used chemical compounds. Bromine, along with petroleum and natural gas, is one of the top three minerals produced in Arkansas. The West Gulf Coastal Plain encompasses most of southern Arkansas. During the Paleozoic era (543 to 248 million years ago), this natural division was covered by seawater. Bromine, which occurs naturally in seawater, was extracted from the water by seaweed and plankton. As these organisms decomposed during the Jurassic period (206 to 144 …

Button Blank Industry

America’s mother-of-pearl button industry boomed in the late 1800s due to a seemingly inexhaustible supply of freshwater mussels, the bounty of Mississippi River Valley tributaries. Long made from saltwater marine shells, pearl buttons could now be made from freshwater shells due to new engineering techniques. In addition, the 1890s McKinley tariff on imported goods protected the market for American button makers, allowing mother-of-pearl button manufacturing to explode. Button finishing plants in Iowa and New York were supplied by tons of button blanks—a circular piece punched out of a shell before the smaller thread holes were added, similar in shape and size to a coin—that came from small factories lining the northeastern Arkansas rivers, which teemed with the freshwater mollusks that …

Catfish Industry

aka: Ictalurus punctatus
The catfish industry is the largest component of aquaculture in the United States and a significant industry in Arkansas. Arkansas is the birthplace of the commercial catfish industry, with at least two farms selling catfish in the late 1950s. Arkansas farmers began to replace buffalofish (Ictiobus spp.) with catfish (Ictalurus punctatus) in the 1960s. By 1966, Arkansas had 4,500 acres in catfish production and three processing plants. However, increases in the price of fishmeal (an ingredient used in making fish feeds), an economic recession, and the lack of year-round production technology resulted in an industry downturn in the mid-1970s. Multiple-batch production technologies developed in the 1980s allowed for year-round supplies to processing plants. Catfish are raised in ten- to twenty-acre earthen ponds. …

Coal Mining

Coal fields in Arkansas are located in the Arkansas River Valley between the western border of the state and Russellville (Pope County) an area only about thirty-three miles wide and sixty miles long. Until about 1880, most coal mined in Arkansas was used near its original location, often to fuel the fires of blacksmiths. Between 1880 and 1920, coal was Arkansas’s first mineral/fuel output, used especially for locomotives and steam-powered machines, as well as for heating homes and businesses. After 1920, oil and oil byproducts pushed aside the popularity of coal as a fuel, and mining of coal decreased. Much of the coal mined in Franklin County and Sebastian County around the year 2000 was used in the manufacture of …

Cotton Industry

Cotton is a shrub known technically as gossypium. Although modest looking and usually no higher than a medium-sized man’s shoulders, its fruit helped to spin off an industrial revolution in 1700s England and foment the Civil War in the 1800s United States. The possibility of riches spun from cotton in the early days helped populate what became the state of Arkansas, with people coming by the hundreds and thousands on a trip that might last two years. Several visitors to Arkansas in the early 1800s made note in their journals and writings of cotton being grown. The crop remained a Southern staple because it needed hot summer days and warm summer nights to bear abundant fruit. It also needed lots …

Crushed Stone Mining

Crushed stone is an angular form of construction aggregate, made by breaking quarried rock into fragments that may be sorted, sized, and recombined into a variety of products. Crushed stone is typically quarried—that is, mined using benching methods (carrying out work from a ledge in a mine or quarry) and explosives, as opposed to the mechanical digging used for extracting sand and gravel. Consolidated rock is cut into vertical ledges, so that drilling can be done from above to place explosives within the wall for proper breakage of rock during mining. Benches typically vary from twenty to sixty feet in height, depending on how competent the rock is. The quarry stone is normally run through a primary crusher and then …

Cultured Pearl Industry

Arkansas freshwater mussel shell provided the raw material for cultured pearl farming in the latter half of the twentieth and the early twenty-first centuries. Following World War II, cultured pearls were the quintessential statement of elegance, and this drove the demand for Mississippi River Valley freshwater shell. The 1960–1980s were the heyday for shell harvesting from northeast Arkansas waterways. Most of the shell was shipped to Japan, where Kokichi Mikimoto had perfected a cultured pearl process in the early 1900s. In this process, a bead, or nucleus, was inserted into a marine oyster and the creature layered its natural nacre around the orb, thus creating a pearl. As is the case with human organ transplants, pearl oysters could potentially reject …

Dairy Industry

Traditionally, milk has been a staple in the diet of Arkansans, especially the young. Throughout history, dairy farming has been vital to the development of rural communities in Arkansas. Originally, dairy farms were located near population centers where milk was sold. However, since the late 1970s, most of the dairy farms have been located in the northwestern part of the state where rolling terrain was not well-suited for row crops. In Arkansas during the 1800s, milk was produced primarily by home milk cows, and the milk was either used on the farm or was bartered or sold to neighbors. With the movement of the population from the farms to the cities after the Civil War, it became necessary to produce …

Diamond Mining

Almost 100 million years ago, in what is now Pike County, nature created one of the world’s most unusual diamond-bearing formations, the big volcanic “pipe” that now serves as the centerpiece of Crater of Diamonds State Park. Famous today for recreational mining, the eroded old crater once inspired generations of diamond hunters to dream of commercial success. The history of that long quest—the expectations, the contention, and the repeated frustration—is, in itself, an invaluable legacy of the Arkansas diamond field. Unlike the typical diamond pipe, the formation in Pike County accumulated in various stages as molten rock deep within the earth’s mantle swept up through a shallower zone where diamonds had crystallized long before and then worked its way to …

Dimension Stone Mining

Dimension stone is defined as rock that is removed from its original site to be used with minor alteration (rough stone) and rock that is broken, sawn, and/or ground and polished (cut or dressed stone) for use as building and/or ornamental stone. While most of the high-quality dimension stone produced in Arkansas is used in state, some is shipped to markets worldwide. Limestone and sandstone are used as dimension stone in Arkansas. Historically, much nepheline syenite was used as hand-worked building stone in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in the Little Rock (Pulaski County) area, but beginning in the middle 1940s, those labor-intensive activities gave way to the use of crushed stone for syenite. A small market exists, …

Experimental Forests

Experimental forests are timbered lands that have been established primarily for scientific research and demonstration projects in which forest conditions are manipulated. In effect, experimental forests are long-term “laboratories” for testing environmental responses to silvicultural treatments, including thinning, tree regeneration, final harvesting, site preparation, herbicide and fertilizer applications, and other actions. In addition to controlled and replicated research trials, most experimental forests have areas dedicated to the “demonstration” of forestry techniques on an operational scale. As of 2009, four experimental forests in Arkansas are operated by the Southern Research Station of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service (USFS): the 4,281-acre Alum Creek Experimental Forest near Jessieville (Garland County), the 1,675-acre Crossett Experimental Forest south of Crossett (Ashley County), the …

Fayetteville Shale

The natural gas field known as the Fayetteville Shale, development of which began in 2004, became recognized as one of the ten largest gas fields in the United States. The exploration of this resource was initiated by Southwestern Energy Company, which, by its high point in 2008, had booked sufficient natural gas reserves to heat every home in New York City for four years. This large find attracted other operators, creating a large, although short-lived, economic stimulus for Arkansas. The Sam M. Walton School of Business at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) estimated the economic impact of the leasing programs, drilling operations, and royalty payments generated by the development in its first decade of operation at …

Gypsum Mining

Gypsum is a mineral (CaSO4·2H2O) that occurs in nature as both a mineral and, when in massive form, a rock. Massive deposits are present as sedimentary beds of varying thickness in the subsurface within the Trinity Group in southwest Arkansas. Gypsum beds dip gently to the south, being part of the Early Cretaceous Gulf Coast series of sedimentary deposits. The gypsum-bearing De Queen limestone member of the Trinity Group is exposed in a narrow belt extending from the Little Missouri River in Pike County westward through Howard and Sevier counties, and dips gently to the south. The thickest single gypsum bed (at twelve feet) is at Plaster Bluff (Pike County). A significant operation near Briar (Howard County) mines five beds …

Hydroelectricity

Hydroelectric power is the electricity generated by the gravitational force of falling or flowing water through a turbine connected to a power generator. The three major types of hydropower facilities include reservoirs (high dams), in-stream (low dams), and pumped-storage. The most common type is the high dam, which creates significant reservoirs behind the dam (e.g., Hoover Dam). In 1882, the world’s first hydroelectric power station, located in Appleton, Wisconsin, produced 12.5 kilowatts of electrical power. Also in the early 1880s, a similar facility opened in New York City. Since these early facilities, hydroelectric power from the nation’s waterways has proliferated. Hydroelectric development in Arkansas can generally be grouped into three time periods—1924–1930; 1944–1973; and 1988–1999—and under three sponsoring agencies: Arkansas …

Industrial Sand Mining

Industrial sand is a term normally applied to high-purity silica sand products with closely controlled sizing. Industrial sand is a more precisely sized and shape-graded product than common sand used as aggregates in construction materials, such as concrete and asphalt. Typically, sand is composed predominantly of quartz (SiO2), and, in the case of industrial sand, the shape, size, and composition of the grains are important to determining suitable uses for the product. Sizing of industrial sand is typically done by screening and air sorting of a dried product. The term “sand,” as used by geologists, generally refers to individual grains that range in particle size from 0.00246 to 0.0787 inch (0.0625–2.0 millimeter) in diameter. This grain size ranges from just …

Lead and Zinc Mining

The history of lead and zinc mining in Arkansas is linked because ores of these two metals often occur together. Lead and zinc in Arkansas occur principally along the upper White River and its tributaries in Baxter, Boone, Independence, Lawrence, Marion, Newton, Searcy, Sharp, and Stone counties. Other locations include the Kellogg Mine in Pulaski County and the Ouachita Mountain mineral belt. Lead (Pb) is a soft, highly dense metal recognized for its low melting point and superb resistance to corrosion. Galena (PbS), containing about eighty-six percent lead, is the only lead mineral of commercial importance in Arkansas. Silver is sometimes found as an impurity that, in larger concentrations, can be extracted as a byproduct. Lead was once used to …

Levi Wilcoxon Demonstration Forest

The Levi Wilcoxon Demonstration Forest (LWDF) is located about three miles south of Hamburg (Ashley County) along U.S. Highway 425. Currently owned by Plum Creek Timber Company, the LWDF is a remnant of the old-growth pine forest that once covered much of southern Arkansas. The LWDF is notable for the dimensions of the loblolly and shortleaf pines still found within its boundaries—most of the pines in this roughly ninety-acre stand are between 100 and 200 years old and over 100 feet tall. For example, the “Morris Pine” is a loblolly fifty-six inches in diameter, 117 feet tall, and estimated to be at least 300 years old. The national champion shortleaf is also found in the LWDF and measures thirty-six inches …

Little Rock Picric Acid Plant

Arkansans supported the American effort in World War I in many ways. Some served in the armed forces, while others worked to grow and conserve food and make clothing and bandages for the troops. Many worked in a number of war industries, including a munitions plant built outside of Little Rock (Pulaski County) in 1918, tasked with manufacturing a high explosive—a rapid and destructive chemical explosive—known as picric acid. Picric acid (trinitrophenol) is made of phenol and several acid compounds that, when combined under proper conditions, form a honey-like substance that can be loaded into artillery shells. It is stable enough to survive the shock of being fired from a cannon, but, when detonated by a fuse, is very destructive. …

Manganese Mining

The mining of manganese ore was a very important economic activity in Arkansas between 1849 and 1959. The region around Batesville (Independence County)—including about 100 square miles located in northwestern Independence County, southeastern Izard County, and northeastern Stone County—has produced more than ninety-eight percent of the manganese ore shipped from Arkansas. A second area including portions of Polk and Montgomery counties also contains manganese ores. The first commercial exploitation of manganese was by Colonel Matthew Martin. Between 1848 and 1850, Martin purchased large tracts of land containing the ore, and, between 1850 and 1852, he shipped small quantities of manganese from Penter’s Bluff (Izard County) on the White River to Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and even Liverpool, England, where it …

Mercury Mining

Mercury, which was first mined in Arkansas in 1931, is in most rock types in trace amounts, generally occurring at higher levels in shale and clay-rich sediments and organic materials like coal than in sandstone, limestone, or dolostone. Although mercury was widely used in the past for several applications, the market for products containing mercury steadily declined in the 1980s because it was recognized to be toxic. It still has important uses, however, in the chemical and electrical industries as well as in dental applications and measuring and control devices. The mercury-bearing district in southwest Arkansas occupies an area six miles wide by thirty miles long, extending from eastern Howard County through Pike County and into western Clark County. Surface …

Mining

Mining is defined as the extraction of valuable minerals or stone (mineral resources) from the earth, usually from an ore body, vein, or bed. Materials mined in Arkansas include base metals, iron, vanadium, coal, diamonds, crushed and dimension stone, barite, tripoli, quartz crystal, gypsum, chalk, and bauxite. Mineral resources are non-renewable, unlike agricultural products or factory-produced materials. Mining in a wider sense includes extraction of any non-renewable resource, including petroleum, natural gas, bromine brine, or even water. These resources are recovered by extractive methods that differ from those of normal surface or underground “hard rock” mining methods. Early settlers in the Arkansas Territory used several local mineral commodities. These included galena (lead ore), hematite and goethite (brown iron ores), saline …