California brick
CALIFORNIA BRICKS


Bakersfield Sandstone Brick Company

History


In 1883, James Curran, a native of New York, came to Bakersfield, California and purchased a few acres of land on the outskirts of town. He learned the trade of brickmaking from his father who was a brickmaker in Illinois. Curran was the first to manufacture common brick in Bakersfield and supplied most of the bricks in town. He probably fired the bricks in a field kiln using wood as fuel.

By 1899, Curran had partnered with Charles J. Lindgren, a native of Sweden who had immigrated to the United States in 1879. Their yard was known as Curran and Lindgren. During the summer of 1899, they built a 40-burner kiln, which used crude oil as fuel. A company was organized under the name of the Bakersfield Sandstone Brick Company in 1903. Curran was the manager and W. S. Tevis was president of the company. This company worked a clay deposit in East Bakersfield on 40 acres of land, located at 501 Sonora Street, Kern (Bakersfield). An alluvial silt was excavated to a depth of 10 to 12 feet with a clam-shell excavator. Some clay was also purchased from the East Side Canal Company. Five-ton dump trucks hauled the clay from the pit to the plant.

The plant had a pug mill with a Kommick-Elbring grinder and a Martin press. The wet bricks were dried on steel trucks either in the open or under sheds. The bricks were dried in seven days and then placed in field kilns. The kilns had a capacity of 40,000 brick per day. Firing was started with gas and finished with oil, atomized with steam. Thermo-electric pyrometers were used for recording temperatures. At the firing holes, the finishing temperature was 2,100 degrees F. Two feet above the arch the temperature was 1,840 degrees F. Two feet below the top the temperature was 1,750 degrees F. The plant employed 10 to 25 men and operated only during the dry months, about 10 months out of the year.

Two classes of common brick were made. Sandstone brick, which sold for $9 to $15 per 1,000 depending on the quality, and clay brick, which sold for $9 per 1,000. Hollow building tile was also made in later years.

This company operated with Curran as manager until 1942 when it closed the plant for the war. The plant did not reopen until 1949, with its office at 315 E. 18th Street, Bakersfield. But only after one year, the plant was permanently closed. The site of the plant has been developed by modern industrial buildings. Although the plant is long gone, the company is still active as dealers in building materials. In 2007, Dixieline Lumber Company of San Diego purchased the brick company to continue supplying building products in the Bakersfield region.

Bakersfield Brick

Common Clay Brick

Common brick is orange to pale orange-red, with a sand struck surface. White flash in transverse sections appears on some brick with minor pits. This brick contains abundant subangular white clasts of granitic rocks, quartz, and feldspar, up to 1/2 inch across and constituting about 25 percent of the volume. The top face displays transverse strike marks. Edges are nearly sharp and straight, but often chipped, and corners are dull. This brick was made using the sand-molded, soft-mud process. Example shown is from the building at 1212 18th St., Bakersfield. Length 8 1/8, width 3 7/8, height 2 1/2 inches.

Bakersfield common brick
View of the side of a Bakersfield common brick.

Bakersfield common brick close-up view
Close up of the Bakersfield common brick.

References

American Ceramic Society Bulletin, v. 31, no. 3, 1952, p. 126.

Averill, Charles V., and Norman, L.A., Jr., Counties of California, California Journal of Mines and Geology v. 47, no. 2, 1951, p. 271-464.

Atkinson, Carolyn, ProBuild's Dixieline Lumber Company Purchases Sandstone Brick Company, March 1, 2007, www.probuild.com/ContentItem/055383 (accessed October 20, 2011).

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. 48.

Bradley, W.W., Brown, G.C., Lowell, F.L., and McLauglin, R.P., The Counties of Fresno, Kern, King, Madera, Mariposa, Merced, San Joaquin, Stanislaus, California State Mining Bureau 14th Report of the State Mineralogist, 1916, p. 429-634.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 59, no. 12, 1921, p. 913.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 62, no. 3, 1923, p. 243.

Clay Worker, v. 32, no. 1, July 1899, p. 34.

Clay Worker, v. 32, no. 2, August 1899, p. 140.

Dietrich, Waldemar F., The Clay Resources and the Ceramic Industry of California, California State Mining Bureau Bulletin 99, 1928, p. 89.

Federal Census Records, 1900.

Symons, Henry H., California Mineral Production and Directory of Mineral Producers for 1941, California Journal of Mines and Geology Bulletin 122, 1941, 377 p.

Copyright 2007 Dan Mosier

Contact Dan Mosier at danmosier@earthlink.net.