California brick
CALIFORNIA BRICKS


Bay Shore Brick Company

History


The Bay Shore Brick Company began manufacturing bricks in early 1908 in San Francisco. Although the exact location of the brickyard has yet to be determined, its name suggests that it may have been on the bay shore in the southeastern part of San Francisco. In February 1909, the company was incorporated with a capital stock of $500,000, by A. B. Johnson, Charles G. Clarke, Richard P. Henshall, Emlyn Lewys, and James K. Burch. Emlyn Lewys, a noted pianist and music teacher in San Francisco, was the company president. Charles G. Clarke, a realtor from Larkspur, was vice-president. The company office was located at 251 Kearny Street in San Francisco.

The Bay Shore Brick Company was manufacturing red wire-cut bricks as early as July 1908, as indicated by the news of an accident in which a barge carrying its brick sank at one of the State piers. No description of the brickyard could be found. However, the surviving bricks indicate that the company used the stiff-mud process in making bricks. The brick reveals that mud was sent to the pug mill, where it was mixed with quartz-rich sand and water. Then it was sent to the extruding machine. Velour texture on the faces and short transverse grooves indicate that the brick was cut by wires by a straight vertical motion. The plant also used a repress machine to compact the brick and mark one of the faces with the company initials "B.S.B.Co."

The late Bill McDowell, a brick collector from Fair Oaks, California, first brought the B.S.B.Co. brick to my attention in 2003. He obtained a stack of them from the foundation of a house in Alameda. At the time we didn't know what the initials stood for. Bill said the closest match for the initials that he could find was the Bakersfield Sandstone Brick Company of Bakersfield, California, but he said that it didn't make sense to send bricks from Bakersfield when there were plenty of bricks being made near Alameda. I agreed. I matched the initials to another company that was closer, the Bay Shore Brick Company in San Francisco. However, I was not certain if that company had made the brick, not having examined the bricks that Bill had found at the time. Bill agreed that the Bay Shore Brick Company was a better possibility. The red brick made by the Bakersfield Sandstone Brick Company, as was later discovered, turned out to be a soft-mud brick rather than a stiff-mud brick, and it contains lots of granite clasts, which are absent in the B.S.B.Co. marked brick.

In 2015, Mike Dick of Guerneville, California, showed me his patio of old bricks rescued from San Francisco, some of which are believed to have come from the 1906 earthquake debris. In his patio were a couple of marked B.S.B.Co. bricks, one of which I display below. Many other similar looking bricks were unmarked, indicating that not all of the Bay Shore bricks were marked. The fact that the bricks were found in San Francisco and that the material in the brick could have come from the San Francisco area, indicate that the B.S.B.Co. marked brick could be that of the Bay Shore Brick Company.

Because the Bay Shore Brick Company manufactured bricks for a little less than two years, the company being dissolved by November 1909, the B.S.B.Co. bricks are relatively rare. Perhaps the company entered the San Francisco brick market too late, when declining demand and prices for common brick and red face brick forced the brickyard to close.

Bay Shore Brick

Red wire-cut common brick is uniform in color. The form is good. The edges are slightly undulatory and are usually broken. The corners, probably originally sharp, are broken. The brick spalls easily. Longitudinal cracks are commonly seen on the sides and ends. Some sides have stack indentations. Fine silicification of the smooth surface gives it a flashy sheen in the light. Some clasts are visible on and protrude the surface. Brick faces display a longitudinal velour pattern with short transverse straight grooves in the wire-cut direction. The faces also contain abundant pits, some of which are caused by protruding clasts. On one of the marked faces are the recessed marked initials of the company set inside a shallow and tight rectangular frog. The frog is 5 5/8 inches in length and 1 1/4 inches in width. The name spans 5 1/4 inches and stands 1 inch in height as block letters, except for the lowercase "o" which is 3/4 inch in height and aligned with the top of the block letters and sits above the last period. The periods are square. The interior consists of 3 percent round red or brownish sandstone, 1/8 to 1/4 inch in diameter, round black iron, subround to subangular white quartz, and rarer black subangular peridotite, all less than 1/8 inch in diameter, in a quartz-rich sandy clay. The abundant fine quartz in the clay sparkles in the light. The iron on the surface in places is melted or blistered to round yellow blebs. This brick was made using the stiff-mud process and the marked ones were repressed. Length 8 1/2, width 4 1/4, height 2 1/4 inches.

View of the marked face of the Bay Shore brick.
View of the marked face of the Bay Shore brick. Courtesy of Mike Dick.

View of the unmarked face of the Bay Shore brick.
View of the unmarked face of the Bay Shore brick.

View of the side of the Bay Shore brick.
View of the side of the Bay Shore brick.

View of the end of the Bay Shore brick.
View of the end of the Bay Shore brick.

View of the interior of the Bay Shore brick showing round sandstone clasts in a quartz-rich sandy clay.
View of the interior of the Bay Shore brick showing
round sandstone clasts in a quartz-rich sandy clay.

Microscopic view of the interior of the Bay Shore brick
showing round white quartz and brown to black iron spots
in sandy clay (50x, field of view is 1/4 inch).
Microscopic view of the interior of the Bay Shore brick
showing round white quartz and brown to black iron spots
in sandy clay (50x, field of view is 1/4 inch).

Microscopic view of the surface of the Bay Shore brick
showing round yellow melted and blistered iron spots
and tiny white quartz (50x, field of view is 1/4 inch).
Microscopic view of the surface of the Bay Shore brick
showing round yellow melted and blistered iron spots
and minute white silica (50x, field of view is 1/4 inch).

References

Clay Record, v. 33, no. 2, July 30, 1908, p. 22.

Clay Worker, v. 51, no. 2, February 1909, p. 346.

Curry, C.F., Secretary of State, Certified Copy of Compiled Statement of Domestic Corporations Whose Charters Have Been Forfeited and Foreign Corporations Whose Right To Do Business in this State Has been Forfeited at 4 O'Clock P.M. November 30, 1909, W.W. Shannon, Superintendent of State Printing, Sacramento, California, 1910, p. 6.

Dick, Mike, personal communications, 2015.

McDowell, Bill, written communications, 2003.

San Francisco City Directory, 1908-1909.

San Francisco City Directory, 1909.

Copyright 2015 Dan Mosier

Contact Dan Mosier at danmosier@earthlink.net.