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What Should Be the National Rock?

By November 27, 2013

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graniteHere's something to discuss around your Thanksgiving table, or any other time of year. In 2013, Gail Collins of the New York Times wrote a column about the fractious political conditions in Washington D.C., plagued with scandals and stagnation. Why not pick something benign for the government to do, she suggested, that it can agree on and then move forward from that modest success? Like declaring a national rock, she said. "Committees could hold hearings about the relative merits of slate and granite. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell would threaten to filibuster unless his colleagues considered coal. But, in the end, I believe everybody would rally around a grand compromise for marble. And the country would feel much, much better."

Commenters had fun with that idea, but of course they disagreed about marble. Their alternatives included Manhattan schist, "porous, leak-prone" limestone, and concrete. (Concrete? why not concretions?)

The whole idea didn't seem so clear cut to me. David Williams, the author of Stories in Stone, thought the same. In his blog post "Official National Rock," he made plausible arguments for conglomerate, slate, gneiss and even rock salt. His commenters mentioned basalt, which I also think worthy.

But come on, people, granite is the obvious choice. Granite is as strong as America aspires to be. Not only that, granite is found all 13 of the original colonies and in most of the other states. (Not in Florida, I admit, but then its state gemstone doesn't occur there either.) When Walt Whitman poetized about the robustness of his soul he said, "My foothold is tenoned and morticed in granite, and I know the amplitude of time." You don't think he'd have picked sandstone, do you? And here's another thing, granite isn't trademarked--it's such a democratic rock, so generously defined, that stone dealers can market almost any kind of hard stone as commercial granite. What could be more American? I ask you anyway.

All-American GRANITE -- Andrew Alden photo


November 28, 2013 at 2:10 am
(1) Kevin says:

Yeah, Granite would make complete sense. I still like Serpentine, though.

November 28, 2013 at 5:12 pm
(2) Tuli Reno says:

I really like gneiss just because I like saying it. And I really really like basalt because of the Columbia River Gorge. Bu my first thought was granite before I read your post. Glad you agree.

November 29, 2013 at 6:52 am
(3) David says:

Granite, well sure, but not just any granite, it must be Pike’s Peak Granite. Center of the US, more or less and holds the country ‘rock’ solid.

December 2, 2013 at 7:57 am
(4) norm says:

Flint is my vote. Used by every person’s living ancestors, it is an industrial input yet in some forms it is a jewel . It fits my nation, a dull common stone that can be worked to fighting tool or an object of love. It provides the gloss on objects made of dull clay. And no one can argue that our nation does not have a vug or two running through it…

December 2, 2013 at 8:19 am
(5) Greg McHone says:

Basalt is a good choice, in honor of the great flood basalts found on the west and east coasts, but in fact our most interesting native rock is Camptonite, named after its type locality in Campton, NH.

December 2, 2013 at 10:50 am
(6) Geoff says:

Aren’t most of the buildings in Washington DC made of granite? That’s my vote too.

December 2, 2013 at 11:28 am
(7) Su says:

Granite. Definitely granite. Nothing feels as secure as granite when walking around with your Vibram soled boots.

December 2, 2013 at 2:42 pm
(8) P. Michael Hutchins says:

Too bad tar sand(s) isn’t a rock type; it’s/they’re rescuing us from OPEC.

December 12, 2013 at 11:56 am
(9) Ron hale says:

For England we’ll have the Shap Granite of Cumbria.

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