California brick
CALIFORNIA BRICKS


Eureka Brick & Tile Company

Thompson Brick & Tile Company

J.D. Thompson Brick Company

History


In 1905, pioneer brickmaker John E. Hill of Eureka, sold his brick plant on the Eureka Slough to James D. Thompson, J. Frank Zane, and John Porter. These men formed the Eureka Brick & Tile Company, located on the corner of Market St. (now John Hill St.) and Essex St., Eureka. James D. Thompson was a pioneer brickmaker from Fortuna, California, where there was a brick and tile plant run by his father James Thompson. James D. Thompson was born in England in 1869 and came with his family to this country in 1872. His father established a brickyard at Rohnerville, where James D. learned the brickmaking trade.

Eureka Brick and Tile Co. brickyard
View of the Eureka Brick & Tile Company. From Dietrich, 1928.


The clay was mined from an open pit with a Fordson tractor and a Fresno scraper. The clay deposit was at least 12 feet thick, with irregular streaks of yellow, gray, and black clay, and varying amounts of sand. Because of its high plasticity, the clay was mixed with 15 percent sand in the plant. The clay was dumped into a hopper and elevated to the plant in cars drawn by a cable hoist. In the plant, located east of the clay pit, the clay was put through a disintegrator, followed by a pug mill, and a Brevan auger machine equipped with a wire-cutter. The wet bricks were then air-dried for up to four weeks in a drying shed.

Firing was done in a 30-foot, round, down-draft kiln, with a capacity of 75,000 brick or tile. The water-smoking was done with wood for a period of 75 hours. The burn was finished with oil, atomized with steam for an additional 75 hours. The finishing temperature was 1850 degrees F. The machinery was powered by steam generated in oil-fired boilers. The plant capacity was 1,000,000 bricks per year, and this rate was increased to 3,000,000 per year by 1915. However, the output of brick was usually about half the plant capacity. Five to eight men were employed during the season.

Eureka Brick & Tile Company made common and pressed brick, hollow tile, and drain tile. The brick sold for $20 to $22 per thousand. Drain tiles were 3 to 15 inches in diameter. Many of the buildings in the Eureka area still contain these products.

In 1920, the name of the company was changed to the Thompson Brick & Tile Company, when James D. Thompson probably bought out the interests of his partners. By 1926, the company was known as the J.D. Thompson Brick Company, which continued to operate the plant on and off until about the mid-1940s, when it was sold to Hindley Clay Products.

Eureka Brick and Tile Co. brickyard
View of the Thompson Brick & Tile Company. From Times Publishing Co., 1917.


Eureka Brick

Common Brick


Common brick is light to dark orange red, mostly uniform in color. Sides and ends have a smooth, extruded surface with a couple of transverse grooves. Weathered surfaces may be irregular and appear to have a sanded texture. Light yellow flash may be displayed on some sides, as well as stack indentations, some extending along the whole side indicating parallel stacking. Occasional pits and white shell fragments up to 1/2 inch across may be present. Brand name "EUREKA" in block letters recessed in a shallow rectangular frog with rounded corners may appear in the side of the brick. The frog is 4 1/4 inches long by 2 inches wide. The name spans 3 5/8 inches and is 5/8 inch high. The brand imprint appears to be hand stamped as it is not centered or straight. Marked bricks are relatively rare, indicating that they marked one brick out of 100 or more. Top and bottom faces display strong longitudinal striations. This brick was made using the extruded, stiff-mud process. Length 8 1/4 - 8 3/8, width 3 3/4 - 4, height 2 1/4 inches.

Eureka brick
View of the sides and ends of the Eureka common brick.

Eureka brick marked side
View of a Eureka brick with the brand name impressed into the side.


Pressed Brick


Pressed brick is light orange yellow, mottled in color. Surface is smooth, pitted, and contains some black iron spots up to 1/2 inch across. Sides have faint longitudinal striations. Ends show faint angled striations. The edges are straight and corners sharp, but easily broken. Faces have pits and some rounded white quartz and feldspar pebbles up to 1/4 inch across. On one of the faces can be seen stack indentations. On the other face is imprinted in block letters "EUREKA" recessed in a shallow, beveled, rectangular frog. The frog is 7 inches long, 1 1/2 inches wide, and 1/4 inch deep. The brand name spans a length of 6 1/2 inches and is 1 inch high. The interior of the brick is coarse with well-rounded quartz and feldspar pebbles up to 1/4 inch across, constituting about 10 percent of the clay body. Probably made by dry-pressed process. Length 9, width 4 3/8, height 2 3/8 inches.

Eureka brick marked face
View of a Eureka pressed brick with the brand name impressed into the bottom face.

Eureka brick
View of the side a Eureka pressed brick.


References

Aubury, Lewis E., The Structural and Industrial Materials of California, California State Mining Bureau Bulletin 38, 1906, p. 374.

Bradley, Walter W., California Mineral Production For 1926, California State Mining Bureau Bulletin 100, 1927, 175 p.

Brick and Clay Record, 1914, v. 45, no. 11, p. 1119.

Brick and Clay Record, 1916, v. 49, no. 8, p. 723.

California Division of Mines and Geology, Directory of Producers, 1949.

Dietrich, Waldemar F., The Clay Resources and the Ceramic Industry of California, California State Mining Bureau Bulletin 99, 1928, p. 81-82.

Eureka City Directories, 1893-1926.

Federal Census Records, 1900.

Humboldt County Directories, 1885-1898.

Root, Lloyd L., Mining In California, California State Mining Bureau, 21st Report of the State Mineralogist, 1925, p. 301.

Times Publishing Company, Humboldt County, California, Wants Your Factory, Eureka, California, 1917.

Copyright 2006 Dan Mosier

Contact Dan Mosier at danmosier@earthlink.net.