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CALIFORNIA BRICKS


Craycroft-Herrold Brick Company

Craycroft Brick Company

History


Picture of C.J. Craycroft
Columbus Joel Craycroft (shown right), pioneer brickmaker of Fresno, owned three brickyards around Fresno and was the largest producer of bricks in town. His first two brickyards were located about two miles south of town on the railroad. The third and larger brickyard was located three miles west of town at Lafayette and Belmont avenues, just west of the Mountain View Cemetery, and is the subject of this article.

C.J. Craycroft was born in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, on December 13, 1845. The family moved to Salem, Illinois, when he was an infant and his father embarked in farming. After serving in the 62nd Illinois Infantry in the Civil War, C.J. went into the brick business. In 1866 he married Rebecca Grabel and they had two children. After the death of his first wife, he married Frances Baldridge in 1874, and they had one son, Frank. In 1879, they went to Harrisburg (now Fremont), Alameda County, California, where he may have made bricks briefly. The following year, he was in Panoche Valley, in western Fresno County, raising sheep with one of his brothers. After Frances died there in 1884, C.J. went to Fresno to work as a contractor. In 1886, he returned to Illinois to marry Laura J. Hayes and brought her back to Fresno.

In 1887, C.J. opened his first brickyard on Railroad Avenue, two miles south of Fresno. His brick business was so successful that he opened a second yard just a half mile away on Jensen Road, in 1898, and C.J. Craycroft & Son was incorporated, when his son, Frank, joined him in the brick business. On a side note, while running two brickyards, C.J. was elected town trustee in 1893 and mayor of Fresno in 1895.

Still looking to expand, the Craycrofts found another good deposit of clay on Belmont Avenue, about three miles west of town, and purchased that property in 1910 from L.Z. Ickes. They brought in a third partner, George D. Herrold, and together they formed the Craycroft-Herrold Brick Company, with a capital of $50,000. The company directors were Frank J. Craycroft, George D. Herrold, William Turner, and L.Z. Ickes.

The clay was valley silt mined to a depth of five feet before hitting the hardpan below. This clay had to be mixed with more plastic clays shipped from other counties. The yard sat next to the Southern Pacific railroad, which made it feasible for shipping. Clay was mined using a horse scraper, to be later replaced by a Marion shovel and Mack Bulldog dump trucks.

The plant was run by electricity. The equipment included a 9-foot dry pan and revolving screen for preparing the tile mixture, and a No. 4 Williams pulverizer for the brick mixture. The ground mixture was elevated to bins from which it was fed to the pug mills by automatic feeders. An American No. 2 auger was used for tile, and an American No. 4 auger with a Freese cutter shaped the brick. All bricks were wire-cut and repressed. Drying was done under sheds and, accompanied by waste-heat driers, the products were ready for firing in one to two weeks.

Field kiln, elevator, and conveyor
Field kiln charged with elevator and conveyor. From Bradley, 1916.

Three 38-foot round down-draft kilns were used to fire the face brick. Field kilns, with a capacity of 950,000 brick each, were used to fire the common brick and hollow tile. The firing period was seven days, to a temperature of 1,900 degrees F, followed by seven days of cooling. Pyrometers were used to control the temperature of the down-draft kilns. The firing was done with oil, atomized with steam.

Crude oil burners for the field kiln
Crude oil burners for the field kiln. From Bradley, 1916.

In 1937, this plant was producing 56,000 brick per day and 6,000 hollow tile per day. The bricks included common, plain face, ruffled face, enamel face, Norman, Franklin, Roman, paving brick, and hollow tile. The bricks came in a wide variety of colors such as orange, red, buff, rose, burgundy, brown, and black. These colors and textures were displayed in the company's showroom at the yard. Prior to the formation of the Craycroft-Herrold Brick Company, Fresno had to obtain face brick from other areas, such as from the Gladding McBean Company in Lincoln or Los Angeles, California. Craycroft had to compete with eight other Fresno brickmakers for common brick, so they were unique in providing face brick. Most of the colorful face brick seen in downtown Fresno as well as in the surrounding valley towns, was supplied by the Craycroft-Herrold Brick Company. Some examples include the Fresno City Hall, Fresno Community Hospital, and the Manchester Shopping Center.

Field kiln, elevator, and conveyor
Craycroft-Herrold Brick Company showroom. From Brick and Clay Record, 1929.

Field kiln, elevator, and conveyor
Craycroft-Herrold Brick Company showroom in 2013. Photo from Dan Mosier.

Elaborate face brick design
In a 1911 advertisement, Craycroft-Herrold Brick Company showed a face
brick with elaborate markings. From Polk-Husted Directory Co., 1911.

The markings on the Craycroft face bricks changed over the years. An early version was marked on the face with the name of "C. H. B. CO. FRESNO" in an arc set inside a deep rectangular frog. Another variation was "C. H. BRICK Co. / FRESNO" set in straight lines inside a rectangular frog. The name carried the "H" on face bricks made as late as 1918, even though George Herrold had left the company in 1914 to work for a competing brick company. In 1918, the company name was finally changed to the Craycroft Brick Company, which filed for incorporation on January 17, 1921. The face bricks made after 1918 therefore are marked as "C. B. CO. FRESNO," with a conspicuous space where the letter "H" was removed from the mold.

In 1921, the McKnight Fire Brick Company, located near Porterville, was merged with the Craycroft Brick Company, and the McKnight facilities were transferred to the Fresno yard. J.H. McKnight made firebrick with the locally mined magnesite, chromite, and silica. McKnight firebrick was gray and coarse grained. On the face was stamped in recessed block letters the name "McKNIGHT." After the merger, the name on the firebrick was changed to "CRAYCROFT." In the following years, the Craycroft Brick Company was also known as the Craycroft-McKnight Brick Company when J.H. McKnight held the position of vice-president. It is unknown when this company ceased making firebrick.

Generations of Craycrofts continued to run the brickyard. In 1915, C.J. Craycroft died when he fell off a two-story house while repairing the roof. His son Frank then took over the ownership and became president of the company. In 1927, Frank built his new brick house at 6545 Palm Avenue with Craycroft red face and black clinker brick. He enjoyed the house for only two years before he died in 1929. His wife Mae ran the company until her death in 1957. Two more generations of Craycrofts ran the company until it was finally dissolved in 1999. The brickyard has since been razed, save for three small brick buildings to mark its location. Today, the site is being used by a trucking firm.

Frank Craycroft House
Frank Craycroft brick house on Palm Avenue, Fresno, built in 1927. Photo from Dan Mosier.


Craycroft Brick

Face Brick


An early Craycroft-Herrold face brick is shown here. The color is orange-red with smooth sides and wire-cut faces. White quartz is visible on the surface. Edges and corners are sharp if not broken. Minor transverse cracks appear on the sides. On one of the faces is a rectangular frog marked inside in recessed block letters "C.H. BRICK Co." on the first line, a promenant line is beneath the first line, and "FRESNO." is on the second line. The frog is 6 1/2 inches long, 2 1/4 inches wide, and 1/8 inch deep. The letters are 3/4 inch in height, except for the lower case "o" which is 3/8 inch. The first line spans 5 3/4 inches, the second line 4 1/2 inches. The interior contains about 15 percent gray to white subangular transluscent quartz, some appear to be from crushed granite, ranging up to 1/4 inch across, in a sandy orange-red compact clay body. This brick was made in the early part of 1910s, using the stiff-mud process, extruded, wire-cut, and repressed. Length 8 1/4, width 4, height 2 1/2 inches.

Marked face of a Craycroft-Herrold brick
View of the marked face of the Craycroft-Herrold face brick.

Smooth side of a Craycroft-Herrold brick
View of the smooth side of the Craycroft-Herrold face brick.

Unmarked wire-cut face of a Craycroft-Herrold brick
View of the unmarked wire-cut face of the Craycroft-Herrold face brick.

Interior of a Craycroft-Herrold brick
View of the interior quartz-rich clay body of the Craycroft-Herrold face brick.


Another variation of the Craycroft-Herrold face brick is shown here. The characteristics of the brick are the same as described above in the previous face brick. The difference is in the style of the name inside the rectangular frog, which is 5 5/8 inches long, 1 3/4 inches wide, and 1/8 inch deep. The recessed block letters are arranged on an arc marked as "C.H.B.CO. FRESNO" with 1/2 inch-high lettering. This brick was made from about 1905 to 1918, using the stiff-mud process, extruded, wire-cut, and repressed. Length 8 1/2, width 4, height 2 1/2 inches.

Marked face of a Craycroft-Herrold brick
View of the marked face of the Craycroft-Herrold face brick. Photo from Blacky Blackwell.


A small-size Craycroft red face brick is shown here. The color is pale red to red. The sides are smooth with minor transverse cracks. Edges and corners are sharp if not broken. The faces display curved wire-cut marks. Some white quartz are visible on the surface. On one of the faces is a rectangular frog, which is 5 5/8 inches long, 1 3/4 inches wide, and 1/8 inch deep. Inside the frog is the abbreviated company name arranged on an arc as "C. B.CO.FRESNO", with a conspicuous space where the "H." was removed from the mold. This brick was made in the mid-1920s, using the stiff-mud process, extruded, wire-cut and repressed. Length 7 3/4, width 3 5/8, height 2 1/4 inches.

Marked face of a Craycroft face brick
View of the marked face of the Craycroft face brick. Donated by Blacky Blackwell.


Side of a Craycroft face brick
View of the smooth side of the Craycroft face brick.


Marked face of a Craycroft face brick
View of the unmarked face of the Craycroft face brick.


A large-size Craycroft face brick is shown here. The color is pale red and mottled to salmon. The sides are smooth with transverse striations, which could be imprints from a conveyor belt. The edges and corners are dull or broken. Some white quartz and granite are visible on the surface. The faces display curved wire-cut marks and longitudinal grooves. On one of the faces is a rectangular frog, which is 5 5/8 inches long, 1 3/4 inches wide, and 1/16 inch deep. Inside the frog is the abbreviated company name in recessed block letters arranged on an arc. The letters are 1/2 inch in height. There is a conspicuous space where the "H." had been removed from the mold. This brick was made after 1918, using the stiff-mud process, extruded, wire-cut, and repressed. Length 8 1/4 inches, width 4 inches, height 2 3/8 inches.

Marked face of a Craycroft face brick
View of the marked face of the Craycroft face brick. Donated by Blacky Blackwell.


Side of a Craycroft face brick
View of the smooth side of the Craycroft face brick.


Unmarked face of a Craycroft face brick
View of the unmarked face of the Craycroft face brick.


Examples of other shades and colors of Craycroft face bricks are shown below (not complete). The company names for these colors are unknown, so descriptive names are given. Most of these bricks were photographed from the brickyard showroom and from other buildings in downtown Fresno.

Side of the Craycroft face brick
View of the smooth side of the Craycroft red face brick.


Side of the Craycroft face brick
View of the smooth side of the Craycroft red face brick.


Side of the Craycroft face brick
View of the smooth side of the Craycroft red face brick.


Side of the Craycroft face brick
View of the smooth side of the Craycroft gradational red face brick.


Side of the Craycroft face brick
View of the smooth side of the Craycroft dark red face brick.


Side of the Craycroft face brick
View of the smooth side of the Craycroft pale red face brick.


Side of the Craycroft face brick
View of the side of the Craycroft burgundy mat-textured face brick.


Side of the Craycroft face brick
View of the side of the Craycroft red rock-textured face brick.


Side of the Craycroft face brick
View of the smooth side of the Craycroft iron-spotted reddish salmon face brick.


Side of the Craycroft face brick
View of the smooth side of the Craycroft dark iron-spotted reddish-salmon face brick.


Side of the Craycroft face brick
View of the smooth side of the Craycroft iron-spotted salmon face brick.


Side of the Craycroft face brick
View of the smooth side of the Craycroft iron-spotted pale salmon face brick.


Side of the Craycroft face brick
View of the smooth side of the Craycroft iron-spotted dark salmon face brick.


Side of the Craycroft face brick
View of the smooth side of the Craycroft light iron-spotted buff face brick.


Side of the Craycroft face brick
View of the smooth side of the Craycroft speckled salmon face brick.


Side of the Craycroft face brick
View of the smooth side of the Craycroft brown speckled face brick.


Side of the Craycroft face brick
View of the smooth side of the Craycroft gray speckled face brick.


Side of the Craycroft face brick
View of the smooth side of the Craycroft light iron-spotted white face brick.


Side of the Craycroft face brick
View of the smooth side of the Craycroft light iron-spotted cream face brick.


Side of the Craycroft face brick
View of the smooth side of the Craycroft white face brick.


Unmarked face of the Craycroft face brick
View of the unmarked face of the Craycroft white face brick.


Side of the Craycroft face brick
View of the smooth side of the Craycroft brown face brick.


Side of the Craycroft face brick
View of the smooth sides of the Craycroft red and black face brick.


Side of the Craycroft face brick
View of the smooth side of the Craycroft small-sized iron-spotted buff face brick.


Side of the Craycroft face brick
View of the smooth side of the Craycroft small-sized light iron-spotted buff face brick.


Side of the Craycroft face brick
View of the smooth side of the Craycroft small-sized iron-spotted light buff face brick.


Side of the Craycroft face brick
View of the side of the Craycroft dark red rock-textured face brick.


Side of the Craycroft face brick
View of the side of the Craycroft black clinker face brick.


Side of the Craycroft face brick
View of the side of the Craycroft red clinker face brick.


Rug (Ruffle) Brick

The Craycroft rug (ruffle) face brick was available in a wide range of colors. The scores on the sides of the brick are evenly spaced with 36 on the long side and 11 on the end. One had 20 on the side and 6 on the end. The rug bricks all have the same characteristics described for the face bricks above. Length 8 1/2, width 4, height 2 1/4 inches. The following are some of the examples of rug bricks shown in their side views as would be seen in the walls of buildings.

Side of the Craycroft rug brick
View of the side of the Craycroft pale red rug brick.


Side of the Craycroft rug brick
View of the end of the Craycroft pale red rug brick.


Side of the Craycroft rug brick
View of the side of the Craycroft pale red rug brick.


Side of the Craycroft rug brick
View of the side of the Craycroft red rug brick.


Side of the Craycroft rug brick
View of the side of the Craycroft orange red rug brick.


Side of the Craycroft rug brick
View of the side of the Craycroft pale orange rug brick.


Side of the Craycroft rug brick
View of the side of the Craycroft dark pale orange rug brick.


Side of the Craycroft rug brick
View of the side of the Craycroft light salmon rug brick.


Ends of three Craycroft rug bricks
View of the ends of three Craycroft rug bricks.


Side of the Craycroft rug brick
View of the side of the Craycroft buff rug brick.


Side of the Craycroft rug brick
View of the side of the Craycroft dark buff rug brick.


Side of the Craycroft rug brick
View of the side of the Craycroft iron-spotted salmon rug brick.


Side of the Craycroft rug brick
View of the side of the Craycroft iron-spotted dark salmon rug brick.


Side of the Craycroft rug brick
View of the side of the Craycroft dark gray rug brick.


Rug (Ruffle) Block

The Craycroft perforated rug block is orange-red and has fine transverse scores on two sides. There are three rectangle perforations, the two outer perforations are square in cross-section, 2 1/2 inch on the sides. On one of the ends and parallel with the scores is printed in tiny recessed block letters the brand name "CH BRIK BLOX" on the first line and "PAT. PEND." on the second line. The first line spans 2 inches and the letters are 3/16 inch in height. The second line spans 3/4 inch and the letters are 1/16 inch in height. Not all blocks were marked. This block was made from 1911 to 1918, using the stiff-mud process, extruded, and wire-cut. Length 10, width 4 3/4, height 3 1/4 inches.

Side of the Craycroft rug block
View of the side of the Craycroft orange-red perforated rug block.


Side of the Craycroft rug block
View of the face of the Craycroft orange-red perforated rug block.


Side of the Craycroft rug block
View of the end of the Craycroft orange-red perforated rug block.


Marked side of the Craycroft rug block
View of the marked side of the Craycroft orange-red perforated rug block.


Red Pavers

The Craycroft red pavers are vitrified extruded, wire-cut, and repressed. The surface is smooth with minor pits. The edges are chamfered. These pavers were made in 1926. Length 8 1/2, width 4, height 2 1/4 inches.

Craycroft red paver brick
View of the sides of the Craycroft red paver brick.


Norman Brick

The Craycroft Norman brick comes in a variety of colors. The example shown is salmon in color and has a mat-texture on the surface. The sides and faces display crackles, iron oxide spots, longitudinal grooves, and minor pit. The ends display angled wire-cut marks. This brick was made using the stiff-mud process, extruded, and wire-cut. Length 10 1/2, width 3 1/4, height 2 inches.

Side of the Craycroft salmon Norman brick
View of the side of the Craycroft salmon Norman brick.


Face of the Craycroft salmon Norman brick
View of the face of the Craycroft salmon Norman brick.


End of the Craycroft salmon Norman brick
View of the end of the Craycroft salmon Norman brick.


Hollow Tile Block

The Craycroft hollow tile blocks are in light to dark shades of red. The sides are smooth. The edges are chamfered. The faces display wire-cut marks and two rectangular perforations with 7/8 inch thick partitions. No brand marks were found. This block was made using the stiff-mud process, extruded, and wire-cut. Length 11 3/4, width 5 3/4, height 7 1/4 inches.

Sides of the Craycroft hollow tile
View of the sides of the Craycroft hollow tile block.


Firebrick

The Craycroft firebrick are in shades of buff. The sides are smooth. The edges are sharp and straight, if not broken. The faces display wire-cut marks and minor pits. On one of the faces is marked the company name "CRAYCROFT" in recessed block letters that span 7 1/2 inches and are 1 inch in height. The firebrick was made using the stiff-mud process, extruded, and wire-cut. Length 8 3/4, width 4, height 2 3/8 inches.

Marked face of the Craycroft firebrick
View of the marked face of the Craycroft firebrick. Donated by Paul Leonard.


Marked face of the Craycroft firebrick
View of the marked face of the Craycroft firebrick. Donated by Bob Piwarzyk.


End of the Craycroft salmon Norman brick
Assorted Craycroft bricks.


References

Blackwell, Blacky, personal communications, 2013.

Bradley, W.W., Brown, G.C., Lowell, F.L., and McLauglin, R.P., Mines and Mineral Resources of Portions of California, Part 4: The Counties of Fresno, Kern, King, Madera, Mariposa, Merced, San Joaquin, Stanislaus, California State Mining Bureau 14th Report of the State Mineralogist, for the Biennial Period 1913-1914, 1916, p. 429-634.

Brick and Clay Record, 1910, v. 32, no. 4, p. 235.

Brick and Clay Record, 1914, v. 44, no. 11, p. 1295.

Brick and Clay Record, 1918, v. 53, no. 1, p. 57.

Brick and Clay Record, 1921, v. 58, no. 4, p. 318.

California Companies, www.californiacompanies.com, accessed December 8, 2013.

Call, Helen, Mrs. Trask Leads A Double Life, Fresno Weekly Republican, March 15, 1970.

Craycroft, John, written communications, 2014.

Craycroft Falls To Death From House Roof, Fresno Morning Chronicle, November 18, 1915.

Craycroft Gets Write-Up On His Home, Brick and Clay Record, 1929, v. 74, no. 10, p. 688.

Death Takes Frank Craycroft, Brick and Clay Record, 1929, v. 75, no. 8, p. 500.

Dietrich, Waldemar F., The Clay Resources and the Ceramic Industry of California, California State Mining Bureau Bulletin 99, 1928, p. 78.

East, Linda, owner of the Craycroft House, Fresno, personal communications, 2013.

Federal Census Records, 1880.

Fresno County Deed Book 451, February 24, 1910, p. 19.

Laughnan, Woody, Craycroft Brick Co., A Fresno Pioneer, Fresno Bee, April 27, 1969.

Logan, C.A., Braun, L.T., and Vernon, J.W., Mines and Mineral Resources of Fresno County, California, California Journal of Mines and Geology, July 1951, v. 47, no. 3, p. 485-552.

Polk-Husted Directory Co., Fresno and Coalinga City and Fresno County Directory 1911, Sacramento, Cal., 1911.

Rootsweb, California Death Index, http://vitals.rootsweb.ancestry.com/ca/death, accessed December 8, 2013.

The Craycroft Works, Fresno, Cal., Brick and Clay Record, 1901, v. 14, p. 40-41.

Vacant Historic Home Gets New Life, Journal of the International Brick Collectors Association, Spring 2006, v. 24, no. 1, p. 14-16.

Vandor, Paul E., History of Fresno County, California, with Biographical Sketches of the Leading Men and Women of the County Who have been Identified with its Growth and Development from the Early Days to the Present, Historic Record Company, Los Angeles, California, 1919.

Copyright 2014 Dan Mosier

Contact Dan Mosier at danmosier@earthlink.net.