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CALIFORNIA BRICKS


Carquinez Brick and Tile Company

History

Carquinez Brick and Tile Co. ad
From Architect and Engineer, 1908.

The Carquinez Brick and Tile Company was incorporated on October 25, 1907 in San Francisco. Capital stock was $300,000. The directors were O. H. Harrison of San Anselmo, John W. Butler of San Francisco, D. J. McKay of San Francisco, Walter Cox of Mill Valley, Joseph C. Raas of San Anselmo, George W. Lane of San Francisco, and H. W. Smith of San Francisco. Harrison was president of the company, McKay, vice-president, and Smith, secretary. The company office was located in the Russ Building, 149 California Street in San Francisco. The brick plant was located at Eckley in Contra Costa County, California.

Carquinez Brick and Tile Co. yard
View of the Carquinez brickyard and wharf on Carquinez Straits. From Brick and Clay Record, 1908.

In 1907, the brick plant was constructed under the supervision of C. P. Grimwood, the company engineer. The plant consisted of two main buildings; two large Freese brick machines, each with a capacity of 100,000 brick in 10 hours; three Phillips-McLaren dry pans; elevating and conveying machinery from the Stevens-Adamson Manufacturing Company, Aurora, Illinois; fans and engine for driers from the Pittsburgh Stoker Company; drier cores from the Ohio Ceramic Engineering Company, Cleveland, Ohio; 500-horsepower Reynolds Corliss engine for driving the machinery; internally fired oil-burning boilers from the Phoenix Iron Works, Meadville, Pennsylvania; and a 6,000-barrel reinforced concrete oil tank.

Blue shale quarry at the Carquinez Brickyard
View of the blue shale quarry at the Carquinez brickyard. From Architect and Engineer, 1908.

Clay was mined from the blue shale in banks at the yard immediately behind the plant. The processing of the clay in 1908 was described as follows. The clay taken from the bank was first ground in dry pans each 9 feet in diameter. The clay was then forced through a screen into concrete wells over which the dry pans were set, then hoisted by an elevator to the top of a three-story building, where it passed through a screen into large hanging wooden boxes from which it dropped on a conveyor belt, which carried it to the large steel clay bins. The clay then was sent down a chute into the pug-mill, where it was thoroughly mixed with water to the proper consistency and forced by heavy double winged augers through a die the size of a brick, forming a continuous column which was carried by a belt to the cutter, which sliced 23 bricks at a time.

Setting brick in a kiln at the Carquinez Brickyard
Removing brick from the off-bearing belt at the Carquinez brickyard. From Brick and Clay Record, 1908.

From the cutter the bricks were carried by an off-bearing belt. They were then loaded on dryer cars holding 600 bricks each. The cars were run into the drier, which consisted of 16 tunnels built of reinforced concrete, each capable of holding 16 cars. Below the cars were conduits through which hot air was forced by a 12-foot fan run by a 20-horsepower engine. Exhaust steam from the engine in connection with one oil burner was utilized for heating the drier. After remaining in the drier for 50 to 60 hours, the brick were removed to the kilns where they were fired for six to seven days, then three days were allowed for cooling. Crude oil was used for fuel. The oil was pumped up from barges to the holding tank on the hill.

Setting brick in a kiln at the Carquinez Brickyard
Setting brick in a kiln at the Carquinez brickyard. From Brick and Clay Record, 1908.

The power house contained the boiler and engine rooms, with a machine shop for making and repairing tools, and an office for the bookkeeping department of the plant. The superintendent's house was built on a hill overlooking the works and Carquinez Straits. The company also had a number of buildings used as homes for the workers, with sleeping rooms, dining rooms, cook house, and store rooms.

Shipping facilities at the Carquinez Brickyard
Shipping facilities at the Carquinez brickyard. From Brick and Clay Record, 1908.

Brick production began in August 1907. Red common bricks were produced and used locally and shipped to San Francisco and adjacent cities. The plant had access to rail transportation and a 250-foot wharf on the Carquinez Straits for water transportation. The first large order for 6 million bricks came from the Palace Hotel in San Francisco, where the bricks were laid in the basement and interior walls. Carquinez bricks were also used in the Crocker Building in San Francisco and in the rear and side walls of St. Joseph's Home in Oakland. The bricks were considered to be of high quality and in great demand. But like so many other brick companies that had started up following the destructive earthquake of 1906, it met hard times when the demand for building brick declined after the rebuilding San Francisco. Operations at the Carquinez brick works ceased about 1916.

The plant was removed in 1918. Remnants of this operation can be seen along the shoreline at Eckley. A small brick building is constructed of brick from the Carquinez Brick and Tile Company.

Carquinez Brick and Tile Co. brick building at Eckley
Brick building still standing at Eckley made of Carquinez bricks.


Carquinez Brick

Common brick is orange to orange red to red to purplish red, with visible gray, white, yellow, and black clasts on the smooth surface. Yellow to grayish white flashing is visible on some surfaces. The long edges are straight and sharp, if not chipped or broken. Short edges are rounded. Corners are rounded to sharp. Occasional transverse grooves, crazing, and cracks are present on the sides. Curved wire-cut marks over velour texture are displayed on the faces, with abundant pits. The interior consists of about 15 percent gray to black subangular shale, rounded yellow clay, subangular white quartz, all less than 1/8 inch in diameter, in a compact, nearly vitrified, purplish red clay body. This brick was made using the stiff-mud extruded process. Bricks are in a range of sizes. Length 8 1/2 - 8 5/8, width 3 7/8 - 4, height 2 1/2 - 2 5/8 inches.

Carquinez Brick and Tile Co. brick
Orange-red Carquinez wire-cut bricks on the side wall of the brick building at Eckley.


View of the side of the Carquinez brick
View of the side of the dark red Carquinez brick.


View of the wire-cut face of the Carquinez brick
View of the wire-cut face of the Carquinez brick.


View of the side of the Carquinez brick with yellow flashing
View of the side of the red Carquinez brick with yellow flashing.


View of the wire-cut face of the Carquinez brick with velour texture
View of the wire-cut face of the Carquinez brick with strong velour texture.


View of the sides of the red Carquinez brick with many patterns of yellow flashing.
View of the sides of the red Carquinez brick with many patterns of yellow flashing.


View of the side of the red Carquinez brick with conveyor belt imprint and faint criss-cross flashing.
View of the side of the red Carquinez brick with conveyor belt imprint and faint criss-cross flashing.


View of the interior of the Carquinez brick
View of the interior of the Carquinez brick with visible white quartz,
yellow clay, and black shale in a compact purplish red clay body.


Microscopic view of the interior of the Carquinez brick, 50x (field of view 1/4 inch)
Microscopic view of the interior of the Carquinez brick with white quartz and
yellow clay in a vitreous red clay groundmass, 50x (field of view 1/4 inch).


References

Architect and Engineer, July 13, 1908, p. 88.

Article of Incorporation of the Carquinez Brick and Tile Company, October 25, 1907.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 26, no. 4, 1907, p. 190.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 27, no. 2, 1907, p. 79.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 27, no. 3, 1907, p. 96.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 41, no. 4, 1912, p. 157.

Carquinez Brick and Tile Company, Brick and Clay Record, 1908, v. 29, no. 1, p. 305-306.

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

How Bricks are Made by Modern Methods, Architect and Engineer, v. 14, no. 2, 1908, p. 64-66.

Huguenin, E., and Castello, W.O., Contra Costa County, California State Mining Bureau 17th Report of the State Mineralogist, 1920, p. 48-67.

San Francisco City Directories, 1913-1916.

Copyright 2004 Dan Mosier

Contact Dan Mosier at danmosier@earthlink.net.