California brick
CALIFORNIA BRICKS


Atlas Fire Brick Company

History


The Atlas Fire Brick Company was incorporated on March 3, 1918 in Los Angeles, California, with a capital stock of $50,000. The original directors were Milton I. Powers, N.B. Harris, E.S. Patterson, and M.M. Harris. In 1919, the officers were M.M. Findley as president, Milton I. Powers as vice-president and treasurer, and Nick Harris as secretary. The office and plant were located at 5601 South Boyle Avenue in Vernon, Los Angeles County.

Brick materials were purchased and shipped from other places, such as the plastic fireclay from the Alberhill Coal and Clay Company in Riverside County, the white plastic fireclay from the Emsco Clay Company in Riverside County, and a medium-grained plastic fireclay for firebrick bond from Germany. Chrome and magnesite ores were also purchased from other companies. The silica sand came from its own deposit near Hicks in San Bernardino County. From 6,000 to 12,000 tons of clay and 3,000 to 4,000 tons of silica sand were used annually.

The plant produced chrome and magnesite refractory brick, high-grade clay firebrick, silica refractory brick, and glass-tank blocks. The company name ATLAS was marked on the firebrick and probably on other products as well. Other brand names were ATLAS POWER and ATLAS HI-HEAT. Special shapes for firebrick and silica brick were made, including key and arch shapes.

The raw materials were ground and mixed in a dry-pan grinder and pug-mill. All clay brick mixtures were repugged and aged in a moist room for two weeks. The firebrick were made using the stiff-mud, the dry press, or the wet process. The stiff-mud bricks were probably made at the beginning of operations. This was later replaced by the other two methods. In the wet process, the firebrick was hand-molded and repressed. Silica brick was made by hand-molding. All of these products were air dried.

The yard contained 7 round, downdraft kilns that were fired by gas. Firebrick were fired to cone 12 (1,310 degrees C, 2,390 degrees F) and to cone 14 (1,390 degrees C, 2,534 degrees F). Silica brick were fired to cone 18 (1,485 degrees C, 2,705 degrees F). Glass-tank blocks were fired to cone 12.

The extent of the area the Atlas Company served is not known exactly, but from the reports of found products, they apparently served the southwest region. In 1919, magnesite and chrome bricks were among the products sold by this company, but by 1927, these refractory bricks were not mentioned, indicating that the plant had ceased manufacturing these products. Firebrick and silica brick were produced from 1918 to 1928.

The company was last listed in the directories in 1928, which is probably the year the plant closed. The plant employed 40 workers at the time under the management of Clifford Tillotson. The officers in 1928 were Milton I. Powers as president, C.J. Walters as vice-president, Stuart Findley as secretary. In 1928, Emsco Refractories Company purchased the Atlas firebrick plant.

Atlas Bricks

Atlas Firebrick

This firebrick is salmon with minor brown iron oxide spots on the smooth surface. The sides have transverse striations and tiny pits of blistered iron oxides. The edges are straight and sharp and the corners are sharp, if not broken. The faces display wire-cut marks with low-angled longitudinal grooves and tiny pits, less than 1/8 inch in diameter. One side is marked with the company name ATLAS in recessed block letters that span 5 inches and stand 7/8 inch tall. The interior contains about 3 percent round brown iron oxides, some with blister holes, less than 1/8 inch in diameter, in a compact, buff alumina clay body. This brick was made using the stiff-mud process, extruded, wire-cut, and repressed. Length 9, width 4 1/8, height 2 1/2 inches.

View of part of the marked face of the Atlas firebrick.
View of part of the marked face of the Atlas firebrick. Donated by James Freedner.

View of part of the reverse face of the Atlas firebrick, showing the wire-cut marks.
View of part of the reverse face of the Atlas firebrick, showing the wire-cut marks.

View of interior of the Atlas firebrick.
View of interior of the Atlas firebrick.

Microscopic view of the interior of the Atlas firebrick (50x, field of view is 1/4 inch).
Microscopic view of the interior of the Atlas
firebrick (50x, field of view is 1/4 inch).

Atlas Power Firebrick

This firebrick is salmon with minor brown iron oxide spots on the smooth surface, which is crackled and pitted. The edges are straight and sharp and the corners are sharp, if not broken. This brick spalls and checks easily. Faint transverse striations and orange-brown flashing may be seen on the sides. One face displays the names on two lines in recessed block letters inside a rounded rectangular plate. The first line is ATLAS, which spans 5 1/2 inches and stands 1 1/8 inches tall. The second line is POWER, which spans 4 1/8 inches and stands 3/4 inch tall. The interior contains 3 percent round brown to black iron oxide spots, some with blistered holes, up to 1/8 inch in diameter, in a granular, compact, subangular alumina body. This brick was made using the dry-pressed process. Two different sizes are noted. Length 9 1/8, width 4 1/2, height 2 1/2 inches, and length ?, width 4 1/8, height 2 1/4 inches.

View of the marked face of the Atlas Power firebrick.
View of the marked face of the Atlas Power firebrick. Donated by Jack Bower.

View of the side of the Atlas Power firebrick, showing the brown flashing.
View of the side of the Atlas Power firebrick, showing the brown flashing.

View of the interior of the Atlas Power firebrick.
View of the interior of the Atlas Power firebrick.

View of the marked face of the Atlas Power firebrick.
Microscopic view of the interior of the Atlas Power
firebrick (50x, field of view is 1/4 inch).

Atlas Hi-Heat Firebrick

This firebrick is light buff with minor brown iron oxide spots on the smooth surface. The edges are straight and sharp and the corners are sharp, if not broken. One face displays the names on two lines in recessed block letters inside a rounded rectangular plate. The first line is ATLAS. The second line is HI-HEAT. This brick was made using a dry-pressed process.

View of the marked face of the Atlas Hi-Heat firebrick.
View of the marked face of the Atlas Hi-Heat firebrick. Collection of Blacky Blackwell.

References

Blackwell, Blacky, personal communications for the Hi-Heat brick, 2008.

Boalich, E.S., Castello, W.O., Huguenin, Emile, Logan, C.A., and Tucker, W.B., The Clay Industry In California, California State Mining Bureau Preliminary Report 7, 1920, p. 76.

Bowen, O.E., and Ver Planck, W.E., Stratigraphy, Structure, and Mineral Deposits in the Oro Grande Series Near Victorville, California, California Division of Mines and Geology Special Report 84, 1965, p. 30.

Bower, Jack, personal communications for the Power brick, 2004.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 52, no. 7, 1918, p. 607.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 54, no. 10, 1919, p. 899.

Dietrich, Waldemar F., The Clay Resources and the Ceramic Industry of California, California State Mining Bureau Bulletin 99, 1928, p. 97.

Freedner, Eric James, personal communications for the Atlas and Power bricks, 2008.

Los Angeles City Directories, 1918-1928.

Symons, Henry H., California Mineral Production For 1927, California State Mining Bureau Bulletin 101, 1928, 311 p.

Copyright 2014 Dan Mosier

Contact Dan Mosier at danmosier@earthlink.net.