California brick
CALIFORNIA BRICKS


California Sewer Pipe Company

California Sewer Pipe Company advertisement.
California Sewer Pipe Company advertisement. From the Los Angeles Herald, November 5, 1889.

History


This sewer pipe manufacturer is included here because they made firebrick and paving brick along with their main product, clay sewer pipe. On June 1, 1888, the California Sewer Pipe Company filed its articles of incorporation with the Los Angeles County Clerk. The capital stock was $250,000. The directors were J. C. Daly, John P. Moran, J. L. Cherry, H. C. Witmer, H. Hiller, W. F. Fitzgerald, and D. McGarry. J. C. Daly was president and general manager, Horace Hiller was vice-president, John P. Moran was secretary, and the California Bank was treasurer. J. L. Cherry was the superintendent. The office was first located at 126 New High Street in Los Angeles, and in 1890 at 248 South Broadway in Los Angeles, in 1895 at 649 South Broadway, and 1903 at 233 South Los Angeles Street in Los Angeles. This company was to manufacture salt-glazed vitrified sewer pipe, water pipes, chimney pipes, culverts, building blocks, firebrick, press brick, paving tiles, asbestos boiler and steam pipe coverings, stove linings, fire clay, and terra cotta.

In 1887, vitrified clay was discovered at Elsinore by the Southern California Coal and Clay Company, incorporated on February 27, 1887 in San Francisco, and was tested at their terra cotta plant and was found to be excellent for making vitrified sewer pipe. This property was owned by John Dolbeer, who was a large stockholder in the Southern California Coal and Clay Company. Other clays were also found on the Elsinore property that were suitable for making terra cotta ware. Fire clay mixed with asbestos was also available for making firebricks. So, the company enticed some Los Angeles investors into utilizing these resources and thus was formed the California Sewer Pipe Company. They immediately searched for a site in Los Angeles to erect a large manufacturing plant. They reasoned that the cost of shipping raw clay was cheaper than shipping manufactured products, so they wanted to build the plant close to the market. Also, the availability of labor and oil was easier in Los Angeles.

In June 1888, 40 acres of vineyards owned by D. M. McGarry, one of the directors, was selected for the plant site in Vernon, Los Angeles County, California. This property was conveyed to the California Sewer Pipe Company in October 1888 for $37,500. This site was located at the intersection of the Ballona Branch of the Central California Railway (Sante Fe Railroad) and South Park (now McKinley) Avenue, which currently is the northeast corner of Slausen and McKinley avenues. The plant buildings, which cost over $150,000, occupied about 20 acres of the property.

California Sewer Pipe Company plant at Vernon.
California Sewer Pipe Company plant at Vernon. From the Los Angeles Herald, June 20, 1897.

Originally, the main building was in the shape of a cross, single-story, with the longer wing being 240 feet in length and the shorter wing 220 feet in length and both 40 feet in width. The west wing, which was next to the tracks to receive the clay, contained a dry pan room, 30 by 40 feet, a wet pan room, 40 by 40 feet, and an engine room, 36 by 40 feet, which had two boilers with 65-horsepower each and a 125-horsepower engine, later replace with a Buckeye Corliss 135-horsepower engine. In the dry pan room was the Dry Crusher made by Turner, Vaughan and Taylor of Cayuga Falls, Ohio. In the wet room was the Chaser mills made by Taplin and Rice of Akron, Ohio. The center of the main building was the press room, 40 by 40 feet, which held the Barber steam pipe press and a brick press. The other three wings, 110 by 40 feet each, were used for drying the pipes by use of steam run through pipes under the floor. Water was obtained from a well on the property. On each side of one of the drier wings were six round downdraft kilns, each 20 or 28 feet in diameter and with 8 firing holes using oil. As depicted in the illustration, each pair of kilns was vented to a 60-foot chimney. The firebricks for the kilns were supplied by the Southern California Coal and Clay Company of Elsinore.

When the plant opened on January 15, 1889, the managers invited the public to tour the new plant. Four passenger train cars of people arrived at 1:30 p.m. to view clay pipes being made at 2:30 p.m. Among them were the stockholders and officers, the City Council, members of the press, of the Chambers of Commerce, of the Board of Trade, and curious citizens. A Herald reporter described the process of making pipes. Clay from Elsinore was dumped from the cars and transferred to the dry pan machine, which worked it into a homogeneous mass like red putty. First clean sand was added in proportions of three parts clay to one part sand. Water was added to the mix in the wet pan. The mixture was conveyed by a belt to the presses, where the material was forced through the die and dropped to the floor in the shape of a clay pipe. A truck then conveyed the pipe to the drying room. The visitors got to witness the creation of 12-inch and 36-inch pipes. This plant had a capacity to make 4,000 feet of 6-inch pipe a day, or 3,000 feet of 8-inch pipe a day. The pipes ranged in size from 3 inches to 36 inches in diameter.

The pipes were dried in the drying room for a period of four days, depending on the weather. When sufficiently dried, they were placed in the kiln to be fired over a period of nine days. The heat was increased gradually until the maximum temperature was reached, at which point the clay was converted into salt glaze vitrified pipe by throwing salt on the fires. This made a pipe that was able to tolerate acids and high pressure.

In 1889, John Redman was the plant foreman. David Mayer was in charge of the tempering department. Robert Vance was the head burner. M. O'Connor was the artist in charge of the ornamental terra cotta work. The plant employed about 75 workers in 1889, but this was decreased by 1896 to 26.

California Sewer Pipe Company advertisement.
California Sewer Pipe Company advertisement.
From the Los Angeles Herald, March 18, 1892.

The plant made some tests with the clay in March 1889, in making jars, jugs, placques, dishes, and fancy tiling, with satisfactory results. In October 1889, according to their advertisement, they began making pressed firebrick and terra cotta. The firebrick was made by mixing Elsinore fire clay with asbestos for special fire resistance and formed by a dry press machine. The bricks were marked with the company abbreviations on the face of the brick. By December 1891, vitrified paving brick, terra cotta chimney pipe, and drain tile were available. The vitrified paving brick was a mixture of Elsinore clay and vitrified clay from Los Angeles. Elsinore clays were used for the terra cotta chimney pipe and drain tile.

The products of the California Sewer Pipe Company were sold throughout southern California, Arizona, and New Mexico. They were shipping out as many as 50 carloads of products per month. This company claimed to have the best vitrified sewer pipe in the country. Gladding McBean and Company, its main California competitor, who doubted the quality of the sewer pipe, was challenged to a test by the California Sewer Pipe Company for $5,000, in which the former company did not reply. It also claimed to have the largest sewer pipe plant on the Pacific Coast. The first order for sewer pipe came from the City of Fresno for a $60,000 contract in October 1888. In September 1891, Los Angeles awarded the company the sewer pipe job on the east side of the river from Sixth to Aliso streets at $3.10 per lineal foot. In March 1892, San Bernardino ordered 800,000 paving brick for E Street. At the Sixth District Agricultural Association Fair in 1890, this company was awarded the best firebrick, best paving brick, and best display of fire clay.

California Sewer Pipe Company advertisement.
California Sewer Pipe Company advertisement. From Flynn, 1892.

The plant was in constant expansion, the result of which is evident in the illustration above. In March 1889, two more buildings for driers were added to the original building. Cottages for workers with families were built on 10 acres of land adjacent to the plant. Superintendent J.L. Cherry probably did not like the decision to expand at this time and turned in his resignation. Cherry was the prime mover behind the building of the sewer pipe plant. To cover the expense, the capital stock was raised in April 1889 from $250,000 to $750,000, divided into 7,500 shares. The company also voted to create a bonded indebtedness of $100,000 by issuing bonds secured by the first mortgage or by trust deed on the property. This allowed for more plant expansion, property acquisition, and building of new plants. The company was planning to build a new plant in San Pedro to launch their products to the world market, but apparently this never happened. Then in 1895, the stockholders agreed to lower the capital stock to $115,200, divided into 1,152 shares. But five years later, they had to raise the capital stock back up to $230,400, divided into 2,304 shares, for additional expenditures, including the erection of a one-story brick office building at 233 and 235 South Los Angeles Street and extensive improvements at their plant.

In 1904, Company President William H. Perry and Secretary Stephen H. Mott reorganized the company under the new name of the California Clay Manufacturing Company. James M. Riley was replaced by Alex Caskey as general manager. For the continuation of this plant's history, see California Clay Manufacturing Company.

California Sewer Pipe Company Brick

Firebrick

The firebrick has a light buff color. The surface is smooth and has minor pits, crackles, and visible flattened clasts. The edges are straight and sharp, if not worned. The corners are dull or broken. The brick spalls easily and cracks may be present. On the marked face are impressed the abbreviation of the company and location as C.S.P.CO. on the first line and LOS ANGELES on the second line. The block style letters are recessed. The first line spans 4 1/8 inches and stand 1 inch in height. The periods appear to be squares. The second line spans 6 1/8 inches and stands 3/4 inch in height. The interior is composed of about 10 percent subangular white quartz and round black iron oxide, less than 1/4 inch in diameter, in a coarse granular, cream-colored, fused alumina clay body, which is very crumbly. As a warning to collectors, this brick is known to contain microscopic asbestos fibers, which was added to the clay during the manufacturing process. This brick was made using the dry pressed process. Length 9, width 4 3/8, height 2 3/8 inches.

View of the marked face of the California Sewer Pipe Company firebrick.
View of the marked face of the California Sewer Pipe Company firebrick.
Photo courtesy of David and Shelly Mowry

View of the interior clay body of the California Sewer Pipe Company firebrick.
View of the interior clay body of the
California Sewer Pipe Company firebrick.

Microscopic view of the interior clay body of the California Sewer Pipe Company firebrick (50x, field of view 1/4 inch).
Microscopic view of the interior clay body of the California
Sewer Pipe Company firebrick (50x, field of view 1/4 inch).

Two earlier versions of the firebrick presented below are found in the fireplaces of the Charles Lummis stone house in Los Angeles. Relative ages of these versions are given. The descriptions of the firebricks are similar to the first one described above, except for the smaller size of the two bricks. The first and probably earlier firebrick, dated before 1898, has its markings recessed on three lines centered on the face. The lettering style is serif and mostly block except for the last "o". Abbreviated "CAL." is on the first line, with a square-shaped period. "SEWER . PIPE . Co" is on the second line with square periods between the words. "LOS ANGELES" is on the third line, with no period. A faint rectangular outline of the name plate is barely visible around the markings. The second firebrick, dated after 1897, also has its markings recessed on three lines on the face. The first two lines are centered and the last line is right justified with the second line. The lettering style is block san-serif and stands 3/4 inch in height. Abbreviated "CAL." on the first line spans 2 1/2 inches, with a square-shaped period."SEWER PIPE CO" on the second line spans 7 7/8 inches, with no period. "LOS ANGELES" on the third line spans 6 inches. These bricks were made using the dry pressed method. Length 8 3/4, width 4 1/4, height 2 3/8 inches.

View of the marked face of the California Sewer Pipe Company firebrick.
View of the marked face of the California Sewer Pipe Company firebrick, probably made before 1898.

View of the interior clay body of the California Sewer Pipe Company firebrick.
View of the marked face of the California Sewer Pipe Company firebrick, probably
made after 1897. The original buff color is blackened from use in the fireplace.

References

A Big Contract, Los Angeles Herald, October 31, 1888.

A Big Enterprise, Los Angeles Herald, September 30, 1888.

A Great Addition, Los Angeles Herald, June 21, 1888.

A Great Industry, Los Angeles Herald, July 20, 1888.

A Vigorous Industry, Los Angeles Herald, April 9, 1889.

Appendix To the Journals of the Senate and Assembly of the Twenty-Ninth session of the Legislature of the State of California, Sixth District Agricultural Association, v. 8, Sacramento, California, 1891, p. 741.

California Sewer Pipe Co. (advertisement), Los Angeles Herald, December 13, 1891.

California Sewer Pipe Co. (advertisement), Los Angeles Herald, March 18, 1892.

California Sewer Pipe Co. (advertisement), Los Angeles Herald, November 5, 1889.

California Sewer Pipe Co. (advertisement), Los Angeles Herald, September 5, 1895.

Crawford, J.J., Structural Materials, California State Mining Bureau 13th Report of the State Mineralogist, 1896, p. 614.

Elsinore Coal, Los Angeles Herald, November 14, 1888.

Extensive Works, Los Angeles Herald, March 16, 1889.

Flynn, P.J., Irrigation Canals and Other Irrigation Works, Including the Flow of Water in Irrigation Canals and Open and Closed Channels Generally, with Tables, San Francisco, California, 1892.

Los Angeles City Directores, 1888-1905.

Mowry, David and Shelley, written communication with picture of firebrick, 2008.

NSDAR Chapters, El Alisal, Built 1897-1910 By Charles F. Lummis, U.S.A. Bicentennial plaque, Los Angeles, Feb. 23, 1975.

Our Sewer Pipe, Los Angeles Herald, March 10, 1889.

New Building, Los Angeles Herald, July 20, 1890.

Personal, Los Angeles Herald, April 3, 1889.

Personal, Los Angeles Herald, March 26, 1889.

Real Estate Transactions, Los Angeles Herald, October 17, 1888.

Removal, Los Angeles Herald, August 30, 1890.

San Francisco Companies, Sacramento Daily Union, February 28, 1887.

South Los Angeles, Los Angeles Herald, June 20, 1897.

Stockholders' Meeting, Los Angeles Herald, April 29, 1889.

Stockholders' Meeting, Los Angeles Herald, July 12, 1895.

Stockholders' Meeting, Los Angeles Herald, July 28, 1900.

Street Paving In San Bernardino, Los Angeles Herald, March 19, 1892.

The New Boom Begun, The California Sewer Pipe Company's Plant, Los Angeles Herald, January 16, 1889.

The Sewer Pipe Works, Los Angeles Herald, January 15, 1889.

Vaaler, Jim, Chapter Chair of the Grand Canyon Chapter of the Sierra Club, written communications regarding the firebrick, 2008.

Vernon, Los Angeles Herald, October 4, 1903.

What Was Done, Los Angeles Herald, September 1, 1891.

Work To Come, Los Angeles Herald, May 17, 1903.

Copyright 2014 Dan Mosier

Contact Dan Mosier at danmosier@earthlink.net.