Ulysses 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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
View of the top face of Briggs common brick showing longitudinal strike marks.
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.
Copyright © 2006 Dan Mosier
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