Cotton had once been king and the railroads had dominated for a time but, by the late 1880s, another industry had assumed a major role in East Tennessee’s economy. Knoxville became a leader in the marble industry, and the industry was so big that Knoxville became known as Marble City.
Although the first extensive developments were in Hawkins County, shipments from Knoxville via the East Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia Railroad were three times as great by 1881. There were 11 quarries operating in Knox County by 1882, and 300 workers were employed. By 1906, it was estimated that the county’s marble industry generated $1 million annually.