Monday, 28 September 2015

A Map Showing the Location of Cylindrical and Conical Structures in Potsdam (Group) Sandstone of Ontario and New York

The locations in New York State are mainly based on Field Trip Guidebooks issued at Annual Meetings of the New York Geological Association.  The locations in Ontario have been mentioned in earlier blog postings.  There are a few additional reports of cylindrical and conical structures that are outside of the boundaries of the map.

Christopher Brett
Perth, Ontario

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Franklin B. Hough, M.D. (1822-1885), the First to Write on Cylindrical Structures in Potsdam Sandstone

This blog posting is written to right an historical wrong.  The wrong or slight that needs to be corrected is the failure to acknowledge that Franklin B. Hough, M.D., of Sommerville, New York was the first to write about cylindrical structures in sandstone.    In 1850 he authored two papers (the second of which was published a year after being presented) on the subject of cylindrical structures:
Hough, Franklin B., 1850,
Catalogue of Mineral and Geological Specimens, Received From  Franklin B. Hough, A.M., M. D., of Somerville, St. Lawrence County, N. Y;  Third  Annual Report of the Regents of the University on the Condition of the State Cabinet of Natural History and the Historical and Antiquarian Collection Annexed Thereto, Printed by order of the Assembly of the State of New York, pages 3-35. (“Report of the Regents”)

Hough, Franklin B., 1851,
On the Cylindrical Structure Observed in Potsdam Sandstone,  Proceedings of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Volume 4, pages 352-354, Read by Prof. C. U. Shepard on Saturday, August 24, 1850 before the Section of Geology and Natural History   (“Proceedings of the American Association”)

Unfortunately those two papers have been ignored since they were last referred to in 1891  by Charles Doolittle Walcott in Correlation Papers Cambrian, Bulletin 91 of the United States Geological Survey.   Since Walcott credit for the first written report on cylindrical structures has usually been credited to the following paper:

Kavanagh, S.J., 1889. On Modern Concretions from the St. Lawrence; with Remarks by J.W. Dawson on Cylinders found in the Potsdam Sandstone. Canadian Record of Science, 3: 292-294
Walcott, in the text of Correlation Papers Cambrian, mentions three papers by Franklin Hough (the two mentioned above and a third on the geology of Lewis County, New York).  Walcott references the Report of the Regents for the following sentence: “In 1850 he called attention to cylindrical masses from 3 inches to 15 to 20 feet in diameter that occur in the Potsdam sandstone near Somerville, St. Lawrence County.”   Walcott references the Proceedings of the American Association as supporting the following sentences: “ ...later attention was again called by Mr. Hough to the cylindrical masses.  They are described as vertical cylinders from 2 inches to 20 feet and upward in diameter, and show a concentric structure.”
[Walcott, Charles Doolittle, 1891, Correlation Papers Cambrian, Bulletin No. 81, United States Geological Survey, 447 pages, 3 plates, at page 206]

Regrettably, papers by (A) Cushing et al. in 1910, despite reporting on cylindrical structures in upper New York state and covering an area where Franklin Hough reported numerous cylindrical structures, (B) Hawley and Hart in 1934, which provides a summary of cylindrical structures in Eastern Ontario and New York,  and (C)  Dietrich in 1953, despite reporting on cylindrical structures from a locality mentioned by Franklin Hough, all fail to reference  Franklin Hough’s above two papers and fail to refer to Correlation Papers Cambrian.   Hawley and Hart refer to Kavanagh’s paper, and  Dietrich compounds his omission by stating “Vertical cylindrical structures withing flat lying Upper Cambrian Potsdam sandstone... have attracted the attention of many geologists since their first description in the literature (Kavanagh, 1888-89).” 

[Cushing, H. P., Fairchild, H.L, Ruedemann, R. And Smyth, C.H. Jr. (1910), Geology of the Thousand Islands Region, New York State Museum Bulletin 145.

Hawley, J.E. and Hart, R.C., 1934, Cylindrical Structures in Sandstone, Bulletin of the Geological Survey of America, Volume 45, pages 1017-1034.

Dietrich, R.V. (1953), Conical and Cylindrical structures in the Potsdam Sandstone, Redwood, New York, New York State Museum Circular 34]

Not surprisingly, papers on cylindrical structures written since the ones by Cushing and Dietrich fail to note Franklin B. Hough’s much earlier contributions.    Recent papers invariably cite Dietrich (1953), Hawley and Hart ((1934),  Kavanagh (1888-1889) and the papers by Weston (1895), Weston (1899) , Dawson   (1890),  Ells (1905), Baker, (1913), Baker (1916) that were mentioned in my January 29, 2014 blog posting, but not Hough.    My August 27, 2015 blog posting may have been the first to cite one of Franklin B. Hough’s papers on cylindrical structures since before Cushing’s paper in 1910 and possibly as far back as Correlation Papers Cambrian that was published in 1891.


Below I’ve provided the text of the important parts of the Dr. Hough’s first paper on Cylindrical Structures:


The following is Dr. Hough's description of the specimens:
17.  Potsdam sandstone, with spherical concretions. Vicinity of the Caledonia or old Parish iron mine, Rossie, St. Lawrence  county.
29. Potsdam sandstone, (cylindrical structure.) Rossie, St. Lawrence county.

This curious structure is frequently observed in this section of the  country, and I do not recollect of having seen a satisfactory theory to account for its formation. These cylindrical masses are of all sizes, from three inches, to fifteen or twenty feet in diameter ; and their axes are always nearly, if not exactly vertical. At times, two or more encroach on each other.

The large circle represented in the following figure, is about twelve feet in diameter, at the locality in Somerville, and the whole is nearly of the same level. The concentric lines of stratification are sometimes obscure, but the cylindrical structure is always sufficiently apparent.
To no active agent can we attribute these interesting appearances with more plausibility, than that of water, revolving in the little vortices or eddies, and causing the sand, which is the principal constituent in the  rock, to be deposited in circular layers ; or entirely excavating a cylindrical cavity in the sand, before it had assumed the consistence of rock, and leaving it to be filled subsequently.

The following sketch is from the surface of the rock, in a field adjoining Somerville village.

The existence of smaller circular masses in the border of, or entirely within a larger one, without in the least interfering with the stratification of it, shows that the causes which produced them operated at distinct intervals of time, although their ages appear to be very nearly the same.

This must, upon the whole, be considered a very interesting problem
in Geology.  F. B. H.”    

The New York State Museum likely still has those specimens.  One of the museum’s web pages gives a partial summary of collections, contents and dates of acquisition, and mentions:  “In 1851 and 1852 minerals and geological specimens from Mr. Franklin B. Hough were added to the collections. These were mostly specimens from St. Lawrence County.”


In his later paper entitled  On the Cylindrical Structure Observed in Potsdam Sandstone, Franklin B. Hough reports on vertical cylinders in Potsdam sandstone in Jefferson and St. Lawrence Counties, New York, with diameters from two inches to twenty feet and upward, where the concentric lines are more conspicuous in those from one to two feet in thickness; that it is frequently observed that the larger masses contain within them those of a smaller size, sometimes partly within and partly without; that cylinders a foot in diameter, five feet in length, have been observed without change in size or structure; that a conical figure is occasionally observed with the cone directed downwards; that the strata often exhibit ripple marks; that a spheroidal structure, seldom larger than an orange, with perfect concentric stratification, is often met.  He proposed that “the cylindrical masses above described may have had their origin in small eddies, or whirlpools, produced by local causes acting upon the surface of the water, and transmitted to the sand at the bottom.  The conical figure occasionally observed, and more especially the uniform direction of the vertex fo the cone, confirm the idea, while all the attendant appearances unite to prove that they were produced in shallow water.   ... When two are found occupying the same area, it is evident that they were formed at distinct, although not probably at distant, intervals of time.”

[Hough, Franklin B., 1851, On the Cylindrical Structure Observed in Potsdam Sandstone,  Proceedings of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Volume 4, pages 352-354]   


Franklin B. Hough’s Additional References to Cylindrical Structures in the Potsdam Sandstone

Franklin B. Hough was a prolific writer.   He included geological notes in his general publications.  For example in 1853 he published his A History of St. Lawrence and Franklin Counties, from the earliest period to the present time (Albany, Little & Co., 708 pages).  This included Chapter XI on Geology, Mineralogy and Meteorology, which at pages  678 and 679 included a reference to the cylindrical structures when discussing the Potsdam sandstone:

“But perhaps there is no structure, either of this or of any other rock, more worthy of study then the remarkable cylindrical stratification frequently observed at Rossie, Antwerp, Theresa, &c.  These cylinders are vertical, and of all diameters, from two inches up to twenty feet or more, and their section where exposed to the surface, shows them to be made of concentric strata of sand of different colors and degrees of fineness, firmly consolidated and capable of being detached, when they present to the casual observer the appearance of huge logs of wood, and has led to them being called “petrified logs.”   As the kind of rock in which they occur does not possess cleavage, it is seldom quarried, and opportunities have not been found to learn the depth to which they descend.  From what the author has seen, he infers that they are sometimes conical, and probably run out at no great depth.... The cylinders at times encroach upon each other, the last formed being perfect, while the older has its stratification interrupted by the other.   No rational theory has occurred to us by which this wonderful structure could be explained , than that they were formed by vortices or whirlpool playing upon the surface of water, and imparting their gyrating motions to the mobile sands of the bottom, which gave the circular arrangement notice, and which has become consolidated and remains.”

In 1854 he published A history of Jefferson County in the state of New York, from the earliest period to the present time (Watertown, N.Y., Sterling & Riddell, 633 pages)  This included Chapter XV on Geology, Mineralogy, which at page 531 references the cylindrical structures in the Potsdam:

“In the vicinity of Theresa, Redwood, &c., there occurs in numerous places in this rock , the cylindrical structures, common at many localities in St. Lawrence county, and apparently produced by eddies acting upon the sands at the bottom of shallow water.”

In 1860 he published  A history of Lewis County, in the state of New York, from the beginning of its settlement to the present time  (Albany : Munsell & Rowland, 1860, 319 pages).  While he includes a section entitled Topography and Geology, and reports on outcrops of Potsdam Sandstone, he does not report any cylindrical structures.

Franklin Hough’s Early Interest in Minerals

Franklin Hough’s interest in mineralogy and geology began when he was fifteen years old.  Here is an extract from his reminiscences:

“During the summer of 1837 ... Mr. Bannister... had visited a mineral locality, at or near the Natural Bridge, in Jefferson County, and gave me directions how to reach it.   I started out on foot, on a journey which must have been not less than twenty-five miles....  I found an abundance and variety of minerals which quite astonished me.  Augite, tabular spar, cocolite, sphene, tourmaline in large black crystals, scapolite, blue calcite, crystals of feldspar, quartz crystals lining cavities in chalcedony and other varieties ...  I found myself loaded with forty or fifty pound of treasures which I walked back over the twenty-five mile that I came.”

[As quoted in an article entitled Franklin B. Hough, M.D., Ph.D.,  by David Murray, 1886,
Annual Report of the Regents of the University of the State of New York,  Volume 99, pages 300-347 at pages 303-304 ]       

Murray also mentions that “During the summer of 1839 [Franklin Hough]  took a trip down the Mohawk valley to Saratoga and back, spending much of his time in collecting minerals, in which he had become greatly interested....”

Franklin B. Hough’s Additional Papers on Geology

In addition to the above two papers on cylindrical structures, and his three general interest publications on counties in New York which contained chapters on geology and minerals,  Franklin B. Hough authored or co-authored at least nine additional papers on geology.  Here are the papers  that I’ve found:

Hough, Franklin B., 1847, Observations on the Geology of Lewis County, New York, Volume 5, Am. Journal Sci. And Agric., pages 267-274, 314-327

Hough, Franklin B., 1850, New Mineral Localities in New York.  Silliman, Journal IX, [The American Journal of Science and Arts] pp 288-289

Hough, Franklin B., 1851, New American localities of  Minerals .  The American Journal of Science and Arts, Second Series, Volume XII,  pp 395-396

Hough, Franklin B., 1850, On the existing  Mineral Localities of Lewis, Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties,  New York.  Silliman, Journal IX, [The American Journal of Science and Arts] pp 424-429

Hough, Franklin B., 1851, On the association of certain minerals  in Northern New York.  Amer. Assoc. Proc. pp 205-206

Hough, Franklin B., 1851,  List of  Mineral and Geological Specimens Received From  Franklin B. Hough, A.M., M. D., of Somerville, St. Lawrence County, N. Y;  Fourth Annual Report of the Regents of the University on the Condition of the State Cabinet of Natural History and the Historical and Antiquarian Collection Annexed Thereto, State of New York, pages 82-90.

Hough, Franklin B., 1852, On the existence of diluvial agencies during the earlier geological periods.  Proceeding of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, [Held at Albany, New York, August, 1851] pp 262-264

Hough, Franklin B., 1852, A report on the mines and lands of the St. Lawrence Mining Company. New York, Arthur & Burnet, 9 pages

Hough, Franklin B. And S. W. Johnson, 1850, On the discovery of Sulphuret of Nickel in Northern New York.  Silliman, Journal IX, [The American Journal of Science and Arts] pp 287-288

Almost all of those papers are available from   or

Donation of Minerals and Fossils  to the Smithsonian

In addition to donating specimens to the New York State museum, Dr. F. B. Hough donated a box of minerals and fossils from St. Lawrence County, New York to the Smithsonian
[See: Baird, Spencer F.  1851,  List of Principal Accessions to the Museum of the Smithsonian Institution Made Prior to January 1, 1851, in Annual Report of the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution for the years 1850, 1851, pp 41-50, as quoted in George Brown Goode, 1883,    Bulletin No. 20 of the United States National Museum. ]

Unfortunately, while the Smithsonian has an online search engine that allows one to search the collections, I could not locate the specimens donated by Dr. Hough.

In 1873 Dr. Hough  donated a box of ethnological specimens to the Smithsonian.

Houghite -- A Mineral Named After Franklin B. Hough

Franklin B. Hough discovered a mineral that is named after him, Houghite, a variety of Hydrotalcite that is derived from the alteration of spinel. [C. U. Shepard, 1851, An Account of several new Mineral Species, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Volume 4, pages 311-319 at pages 314-315]    See also: 

Franklin B. Hough’s Original Notebooks, Maps and  Papers on Geology

The New York State Library keeps a collection of 117 boxes of Franklin B. Hough's papers that were donated to the New York State Library by the Hough Family in 1915.   Included in the collection is “a notebook with nine maps entitled “Mineral Localities of Northern New York,” and oversize manuscript copy maps of Lot 611 in the village of Philadelphia, Jefferson County, and a map showing townships in Jefferson, Lewis, and Herkimer counties in New York State.”
This would be worth looking by those with an interest in  historical mineral localities.

[See Franklin Benjamin Hough Papers - New York State Library   ]

Other Aspects of Franklin Hough’s Life

Franklin B. Hough, M.D., had an interesting life.  I would recommend reading David Murray’s article from 1886 and the summary in the Franklin Benjamin Hough Papers - New York State Library at:   The following is but a brief summary.

Franklin B. Hough, M.D., (1822-1885) was trained as a medical doctor, but practiced as a medical doctor only briefly from 1848 to 1852 and from 1862 to 1864 when he served as a surgeon during the American Civil War.   He is remembered today for his writings on botany, as a writer on historical topics, as the person responsible for overseeing the New York State census for 1855, 1865 and 1870, and as the father of American forestry.    His work on the census of New York revealed the declining availability of timber and caused him to devote the latter part of his life to the preservation of forests.   He should also be credited as the first to write on cylindrical structures in sedimentary rocks and for his early work in identifying mineral collecting localities in New York State.
Interestingly, Franklin B. Hough’s real name was Benjamin Franklin Hough.   In an account of himself, furnished in 1860 to the New England Historic Genealogical Society, he states that he was “originally named Benjamin Franklin Hough, but having a cousin of the same name, he assumed in childhood the name as now written [i.e., Franklin B. Hough], to distinguish him from his cousin.  The B.” he adds, “is retained without attaching to it any particular significance, and it is invariably written with the initials only.”

 [from a review of A Bibliography of the Writings of Franklin Benjamin Hough, Ph.D., M.D, by John H. Hickox., that appeared in Volume 40, New England Historical and Genealogy Register, 1886, page 423]

Christopher Brett
Perth, Ontario