California brick
CALIFORNIA BRICKS


Berg and Oxby

History


In 1902, Chris G. Berg and George H. Oxby formed a partnership to manufacture bricks at College and New Depot streets in Los Angeles, California. Their brickyard was across Cleveland Street from the Los Angeles Pressed Brick Company. Chris Berg was a native of Germany and immigrated to the United States in the early 1880s; he was naturalized in 1885. In 1895 and 1896, he was making bricks with Richard Loynes in Los Angeles. In 1900, he married Lena and they had a son named Robert, who was born in 1905 in Los Angeles, California. In 1900, Chris was working as a carpenter until he re-entered the brick business with George H. Oxby. George Henry Oxby, was born in Iowa in 1871 and by 1900, he was living in Los Angeles. He later married Frances.

Berg and Oxby clay pit
View of the clay pit of Berg & Oxby, Los Angeles. From Aubrey, 1906.


The firm was known as Berg & Oxby. Their office was in the Lankershim Building at 126 West Third Street in Los Angeles. The brickyard was located on six acres of land on College Street between New Depot and Cleveland streets. Berg & Oxby were known for their wire-cut bricks, being among the first brickmakers to make such bricks in Los Angeles. But they also made handmolded common bricks as well. Red-burning clay was obtained from their property and fire clay was shipped from Temescal Canyon in Riverside County. The plant was equipped with a 60-horsepower boiler, a 40-horsepower engine, and a blower. The bricks were molded in a stiff-mud extruding machine with wire-cutters. The driers were heated by steam. The bricks were fired in four field kilns, using oil as fuel. They employed 30 men.

Most of the bricks made were common building bricks, but some firebrick were also made. There are no known bricks marked with their names, so they probably didn't mark their bricks. The common brick were used in many buildings in Los Angeles, among the more prominent ones included the Lankershim Hotel, Lexington Hotel, and the Carr Building. The examples of their handmolded common brick shown below are from the 1909 Carr Building, which still stands at 644 South Broadway in Los Angeles. No examples of their wire-cut brick or firebrick are available to show yet.

As early as 1905, the Berg & Oxby brickyard was under attack by the local residents for noise and pollution. The neighbors succeeded in forcing the brickyard to closed by court order in 1908. Consequently, Chris Berg started the Port Costa Brick Company in Contra Costa County, California, and devoted his attention to that business after the closure of the Berg & Oxby yard. By 1910, George Oxby had moved to Bakersfield and by 1920, he owned an orchard in Sacramento County. The Berg & Oxby brickyard site has been destroyed by residential development and the Pasadena Freeway.

Berg & Oxby Brick

Common brick is orange-red and somewhat mottled in color to red or darker shades of red. Some show light yellow flash on the sides. The surface is gritty and sand-struck. The form is good with undulating dull edges and dull corners. Some have a prominent lip up to 1/4 inch thick around the top edges. The brick spalls easily resulting in a pitted surface, broken edges and corners, and some are cracked. The interior of the brick is composed of a variety of clasts up to 3/4 inch across of subangular white quartz, subrounded gray, tan, and yellow clay or siltstone, subrounded red sandstone, subrounded black iron oxide, and subrounded porphyritic volcanic rock, all constituting about 15 to 20 percent of the fine, compact, orange clay body. This brick was made using the soft-mud process. Length 8 1/4, width 3 7/8, height 2 1/8 inches.

Berg and Oxby brick sides
View of the sides of the Berg & Oxby brick.

Berg and Oxby brick sides
View of the sides and ends of the Berg & Oxby brick.

Berg and Oxby brick interior
View of the interior of the Berg & Oxby brick.


References

Aubrey, Lewis E., The Structural and Industrial Materials of California, California State Mining Bureau Bulletin 38, 1906.

Crawford, J.J., Structural Materials, California State Mining Bureau 13th Report of the State Mineralogist, 1896, p. 612-641.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 16, no. 2, 1902, p. 114.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 16, no. 3, 1902, p. 158.

Brick and Clay Record, August 31, 1905, p. 37.

Brick and Clay Record, February 28, 1906, p. 47.

Federal Census Records, 1900.

Federal Census Records, 1910.

Federal Census Records, 1920.

Great Register, 1910.

Los Angeles City Directories, 1896-1911.

Los Angeles Herald, September 3, 1905.

Merrill, F.J.H., Los Angeles County, Orange County, Riverside County, California State Mining Bureau 15th Report of the State Mineralogist, part 4, 1916, p. 461-589.

Copyright 2011 Dan Mosier

Contact Dan Mosier at danmosier@earthlink.net.