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CALIFORNIA BRICKS


Douglass Clay Product Company

History


Archibald Douglass.
In 1896, Archibald Douglass (shown right) arrived in Los Angeles and became president and treasurer of the
Los Angeles Stoneware and Sewer Pipe Company, which had established a stoneware and sewer pipe manufacturing plant at 320/423 Avenue 26 in Los Angeles in 1891. Douglass was born in Fort Madison, Iowa, in 1859. In 1872, his parents moved to St. Louis, Missouri, where his father was employed as a lumber merchant. In 1883, he married Frances Kaime, and they raised two sons and a daughter. The family went to Los Angeles, California, in 1896. Douglass held the president and treasurer positions at the Los Angeles Stoneware and Sewer Pipe Company until 1905.

By 1906, Douglass had taken over the company through stock acquisitions and he decided to reorganize it under a new company which he called the Douglass Clay Product Company. The new company was incorporated on December 18, 1907, with a capital stock of $250,000. The directors were Archibald Douglass, Benjamin Douglass, C.R. Manbert, Norman A. Bailie, and Benjamin Kirby, all of Los Angeles. Officers included Archibald Douglass as president and treasurer, Donald Barker as vice-president, and Edwin Bird as secretary. The office was at the Pacific Electric Building at 604 South Main Street in Los Angeles. F.A. Mann was the sales manager. The purpose was to manufacture all kinds of clay products, including sewer pipe, firebrick, pottery, glazed brick, terra cotta, stoneware, and glassware. The focus here will be on the bricks manufactured at this plant.

In May 1906, the Douglass Clay Product Company took out a mortgage of $100,000, due in five years, for updating the plant. The plant was described as being the best equipped in its special lines in the West. The main two-story building covered two acres of the seven-acre property. The foundations were of concrete and the clay processing plant rose to four stories in height. Crude oil was used in the power plants and for the kilns. Oil was stored in two 1,500-gallon barrel tanks. The boiler plant contained three 120-h.p. return tubular boilers made by the Bass Foundry and Machinery Company, with a condensing plant that returned water to the boilers. A Bass-Corliss 120 h.p. engine was used to power the plant's machinery. A Laidlaw-Dunn-Gordon air compressor supplied compressed air for burning the kilns. A smaller engine ran the electric plant. They also had a complete blacksmith and machine shop for repairing machinery and tools. A laboratory was equipped for analyzing and testing 40 different clays.

View of the Douglass Clay Product Company plant, Los Angeles.
View of the Douglass Clay Product Company plant, Los Angeles. From Southwest Contractor and Manufacturer, 1909.

Clay was delivered from their own 80-acre clay property near Elsinore and in the Antelope Valley by rail. A railroad spur ran directly to the clay receiving room. The clay processing plant contained two dry pans, one 5-foot and one 9-foot machine. The storage bins were in the clay tower, which had a capacity of 300 tons. Here the clay was screened for uniformity before it was drawn to the various departments.

The clay mixture was sent from the bins to the pug-mills for tempering and then to the auger mill where the mix was extruded as a continuous block. The block was automatically cut into brick shape and carried by conveyor to an Eagle Repress, where the brick was given the required density and finish. The brick machinery was made by the American Clay Working Machinery Company, Bucyrus, Ohio. The bricks were transferred to the steam drying rooms by cars. The drying room had a capacity of 150,000 green brick. When the bricks were sufficiently dried, they were stacked in the kilns and fired to 2,600 degrees F. Kilns of the round down-draft type ranged in size from 20 feet to 30 feet in diameter.

View of the Douglass Clay Product Company plant, Los Angeles.
Douglass Clay Product Company advertisement. From Southwest Contractor and Manufacturer, 1909.

The firebrick department was equipped with hand represses and a large assortment of molds for special shapes, such as locomotive firebox lining and cupola lining. Firebricks made at this plant were used in the construction of all of its own kilns. Each firebrick was stamped with the brand name as well as the name of the company. Douglass had introduced the HIGH GRADE and EXCELSIOR brands of firebrick. The company had adopted the slogan "Douglass means quality," indicating the pride of displaying its name on every product. The plant had the capacity of producing 3.5 million bricks per year.

Glazed bricks were also tested and made at this plant. A highly finished white glaze brick that required only one burning was made. They had planned to produce glazed brick in 1909, but it is not known if that was accomplished before the plant was sold to Pacific Sewer Pipe Company in 1910.

In the four years that the Douglass Company was operating this plant, had they produced at full capacity, they would have made 14 million bricks. Whether this quantity was achieved is to be determined. Some Douglass firebrick have been found in the Los Angeles region.

In 1910, the Pacific Sewer Pipe Company purchased the Douglass plant as part of their plan to consolidate several sewer pipe manufacturing plants in Southern California. This became Plant Number 4 of the Pacific Sewer Pipe Company, which continued to manufacture bricks, but under the PSP brand. See Pacific Sewer Pipe Company Lincoln Heights plant for the continuation of this plant's history.

Archibald Douglass held the secretary position in the Pacific Sewer Pipe Company and its successor Pacific Clay Products Company until 1923. He also was vice-president of the Alsop Engineering and Construction Company and president of the Duryea-White Machinery Company in Los Angeles. He died in 1949 at the age of 90.

View of the Douglass Clay Product Company plant, Los Angeles.
Clay products of the Douglass Clay Product Company, Los Angeles. From Southwest Contractor and Manufacturer, 1909.

Douglass Bricks

Firebricks

Douglass High Grade firebrick is buff to white and has smooth surfaces. There are fine transverse striations on the sides. The faces show a very faint transverse velour texture with a few short grooves in the longitudinal direction. Some pits are present on the faces and the unmarked face displays short dash imprints from the conveyor belt. The marked face contains a faint plate imprint that is 2 3/4 inches wide and runs the full length of the brick. There are a pair 3/8 inch screws at each end of the name plate. Centered in recessed block letters are the names on two lines. The first line is the company name DOUGLASS, which spans 5 7/8 inches and stands 3/4 inch in height. The second line is the brand name HIGH GRADE, which spans 7 inches and is 3/4 inch in height. The interior is composed of 5 percent subrounded milky white quartz, black iron oxide, and rare muscovite flakes, all less than 1/16 inch in diameter, in a finely compact white clay body. This brick was made using the stiff-mud process and repressed. Length 8 7/8, width 4 3/8, height 2 1/2 inches.

View of the marked face of the Douglass High Grade firebrick. Photo courtesy of Douglas S. McIntosh.
View of the marked face of the Douglass High Grade firebrick. Photo courtesy of Douglas S. McIntosh.

The Douglass Excelsior firebrick is buff and has smooth surfaces. The faces show a very faint transverse velour texture. Some pits are present on the faces and a few white quartz and brown iron oxide are exposed. The marked face contains faint plate imprints that run the full length of the brick. There are four 3/8 inch screws, each end of the name plate has a pair of screws. Centered in recessed block letters are the names on two lines. The first line is the company name DOUGLASS, which spans 5 7/8 inches and stands 3/4 inch in height. The second line is the brand name EXCELSIOR, which spans 7 inches and is 3/4 inch in height. This brick was made using the stiff-mud process and repressed. No dimensions are available.

View of the marked face of the Douglass Excelsior firebrick. Photo courtesy of Douglas S. McIntosh.
View of the marked face of the Douglass Excelsior firebrick. Photo courtesy of Douglas S. McIntosh.

A different version of the Douglass Excelsior firebrick is salmon and has smooth surfaces. The faces show a very faint transverse velour texture. Some pits are present on the faces and a few white quartz and brown iron oxide with blister holes are exposed. The marked face contains two rectangular beveled frogs. The frogs contain the names in raised block letters. In the first frog is the company name DOUGLASS. In the second frog is the brand name EXCELSIOR. This brick was made using the stiff-mud process and repressed. No dimensions are available.

View of the marked face of the Douglass Excelsior firebrick. Photo courtesy of Douglas S. McIntosh.
View of the marked face of the Douglass Excelsior firebrick. Photo courtesy of Douglas S. McIntosh.

References

Aubrey, Lewis E., The Structural and Industrial Materials of California, California State Mining Bureau Bulletin 38, 1906, p. 214-216.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 39, no. 10, 1911, p. 396.

Durfee, Thomas, Family Tree, Ancestry.com (accessed November 23, 2014).

Equipment and Methods in Modern Clay Workings, Southwest Contractor and Manufacturer, Los Angeles, v. 3, no. 3, May 29, 1909, p. 12-13.

Federal Census Records, 1880.

Federal Census Records, 1900.

Federal Census Records, 1930.

Kennedy, George L., personal communications and brick donations, 2014.

Los Angeles City Directory, 1896.

Los Angeles City Directory, 1897.

Los Angeles City Directory, 1900.

Los Angeles City Directory, 1901.

Los Angeles City Directory, 1902.

Los Angeles City Directory, 1905.

Los Angeles City Directory, 1907.

Los Angeles City Directory, 1923.

Los Angeles City Directory, 1924.

McIntosh, Douglas S., written communications and photographs, 2013.

Men Who Have Made Southern California, Los Angeles Herald, December 24, 1905.

Southwest Contractor and Manufacturer, Los Angeles, v. 3, no. 6, June 19, 1909, p. 17.

State of California, California Death Index, 1940-1997, California Department of Health Services, Sacramento, California.

Take Initial Steps For New Industry, Los Angeles Herald, December 19, 1907.


Copyright 2014 Dan Mosier

Contact Dan Mosier at danmosier@earthlink.net.