California brick
CALIFORNIA BRICKS


Ulysses N. Briggs

History


U.N. Briggs
Ulysses Nathaniel Briggs, born May 3, 1860, near Webster City, Iowa, began his apprenticeship in the trade of brickmaking at the age of 12 years. He later learned bricklaying, general masonry, plastering, and concrete work. His father Ulis Briggs was a potter in Iowa. In 1882, Ulysses left Iowa and worked in every state west of the Mississippi River as a journeyman. He arrived in Santa Rosa, California, in 1883, where he worked briefly and then went to other parts of the state. In 1892, he established a permanent business at Ukiah. He married Lulu B. Critchfield, a native of Sonoma County, in San Francisco.

Briggs' brickyard was located on Ford Street, Ukiah. He probably mined the alluvial bank of Orr Creek for clay. A description of the brick plant is not available. But from the character of the brick, it appears that the plant used screens, a pug mill, sand-molded, soft-mud process, drying sheds, and field kilns. The sides and ends of each brick had a fine brush texture which distinguishes his bricks.

The bricks are found in all of the older brick buildings in Ukiah, such as the McKinley Building and Palace Hotel on South State Street. He furnished bricks for the city hall, annex to the I.O.O.F. Building, and many other buildings and residences. It is said that most of the cement sidewalks in Ukiah were laid by Briggs as well. Briggs retired from the brick manufacturing business about 1930. He died on July 17, 1946 at the age of 86 years.

Briggs Brick

Common brick is orange, pale orange, and light brown, mostly uniform in color. Surface is sanded, rough, and uneven, with minor rounded red chert pebbles and subangular to subrounded black iron up to 1/8 inch across, and pits ranging up to 1/2 inch across. Some bricks display transverse cracks. The lip along the top edge is irregular and up to 1/4 inch thick. Where the surface isn't weathered, a distinguishing feature of fine brush strokes usually in the longitudinal direction is visible on the sides and ends, but the brush strokes may be transverse or diagonal as well, with multiple directions on the same side. The top face is usually marked with large pits and deep longitudinal grooves, some more prominent than others. This brick was made using the hand-molded, sand-struck, soft-mud process. Length 7 7/8 - 8 1/4, width 3 1/2 - 4, height 2 1/4 - 2 1/2 inches.

Briggs brick
View of Briggs common bricks in the wall of the McKinley Building
showing two shades of color and a fine brush texture on the sides.

Briggs brick
View of Briggs common bricks in the McKinley Building. Note the irregular
lip along the top edge and the fine brush strokes in different directions.


Briggs brick top face
View of the top face of Briggs common brick showing longitudinal strike marks.


References

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

Bradley, Walter W., California Mineral Production For 1926, California State Mining Bureau Bulletin 100, 175 p.

Carpenter, A.O., History of Mendocino and Lake Counties, California, Los Angeles, CA: Historic Record Co., 1914.

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

O'Brien, J.C., Mendocino County, California Journal of Mines and Geology, v. 49, no. 4, 1953, p. 347-398.

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

Symons, Henry H., California Mineral Production For 1928, California State Mining Bureau Bulletin 102, 1929, 215 p.

Symons, Henry H., California Mineral Production For 1929, California State Mining Bureau Bulletin 103, 1930, 231 p.

Symons, Henry H., California Mineral Production and Directory of Mineral Producers For 1930, California State Mining Bureau Bulletin 105, 1931, 231 p.

Copyright 2006 Dan Mosier

Contact Dan Mosier at danmosier@earthlink.net.