California brick

Garber Brick and Tile Company


In May 1923, Harvey Garber opened a new brickyard on the northwest corner of Hope Street (East Lincoln Avenue) and Tustin Avenue (North Tustin Street) about 1.5 miles east of Olive, Orange County, California, where the Brickyard Shopping Center is located today. When Garber discovered the brick clay at the site, he had it tested at the Raymond I. Osborn laboratories in Los Angeles, who reported that the clay was first class both as to strength and absorption. Garber's brickyard had 6 acres of land. In 1924, the Garber Brick and Tile Company was incorporated with a capital stock of $150,000, and Harvey Garber as president of the company.

The clay pit, on the west side of the plant, was mined by a drag scraper. The pit is 350 feet long and wide, and can be seen today as the deep pond next to the shopping center in Eisenhower Park. The plant contained a 30-h.p. boiler, an Ingersoll-Rand compressor, a Blake-type crusher, screens, and elevators. The clay was put through rolls and elevated to storage bins. A pug-mill was used to mix the clay with water in preparation for the brick press, which made brick using the soft-mud and stiff-mud processes. A Keystone No. 2 auger machine with one side-cut lubricating die, 8 5/8 inches long, 3 7/8 inch corners, and 3 5/8 inch center, was used for making stiff-mud wire-cut bricks. Bricks were conveyed by a cable conveyor to the drying racks. When bricks were properly dried, they were stacked in field kilns and fired using natural gas. The plant's daily brick output was 25,000. This plant employed 10 to 30 workers.

Common brick and hollow tile were manufactured here. In 1922, Garber filed a patent for his hollow tile block, which was awarded in 1926. This hollow tile with the addition and position of partitions improved the handling of the tile such that a worker can grasp the tile with one hand and mortar it in place with the other hand. The tile can also be easily split into halves or quarters with a single strike of the trowel along v-grooves on the sides of the block. However, from information provided by Josh Higgins, Garber manufactured a different type of hollow tile at this yard starting in 1924. This hollow tile was 8 1/2 x 5 3/4 inches (third dimension was not stated) with only two cores. Garber also manufactured hand-molded roofing tile, floor tile, roof dressing, and brick dust for molding sand. The tiles were fired in two down-draft kilns, with an output of 2,000 tile per day.

Plan views of two Garber patent hollow tiles. From Garber, 1926.

Brick dust was made from finely crushed brick and is a diagnostic feature in Garber's brick. Brick dust is coating the smooth surfaces of the brick instead of the usual quartz sand found on most common bricks. Another diagnostic feature is the marked rectangular frog on the face of some of Garber's bricks, which may display in bold raised letters the name GARBER.

Most of Garber's products were used in the surrounding towns in Orange County. Garber bricks went to the Orange County Hall of Records at Santa Ana, the California Cordage factory at Orange, and in many other local buildings and homes. A fleet of trucks was used to ship bricks. Remnant bats found at the brickyard site provide the detailed description for the brick shown below. Ron Rose provided a picture of the marked face of the Garber brick. No wire-cut bricks by Garber are available to describe or show, as these are probably not marked and have not yet been recognized in the field.

Harvey Garber was born in Bliss, Emmett County, Michigan, in 1879. Having been raised on his parent's farm, at age 21, he was in Nampa, Idaho, working as a farm laborer. In 1909, he married Freda Kelley in St. Joseph County, Indiana, where he was working as a carpenter. Harvey and Freda had one daughter born in Indiana. In January 1914, the Garbers went to Orange, Orange County, California, where Harvey continued working in the construction business. In 1919, Garber acquired the former brickyard of William Sackman in Santa Ana and manufactured bricks for a few years. In 1922, he discovered brick clay at Olive and in the following year opened the brickyard discussed here. In 1923, he also opened the Oliver Lumber Company at Olive. In 1925, Garber sold his brickyard to Mission Clay Products, which produced mainly tile products. He returned to the contracting business as a carpenter. Harvey Garber died in 1934 at the age of 55 years.

Garber Brick

Common Brick

Garber common brick is pale orange-red and mostly uniform in color. The form is good with nearly straight and nearly sharp edges and dull corners. The surfaces of the sides and bottom face are smooth with a fine coating of brick dust and a scattering of clear quartz giving it a dull grainy texture. Handling the brick leaves fine brick dust on the hand. Tiny pits may be present on the surface. The top face is rough and pitted and white quartz may be visible. A lip, 1/4 inch thick, may be present around the top edges of the brick. The marked face is flat, even, and smooth. A rectangular frog, 6 1/4 inches long, 2 inches wide, and 1/8 to 1/4 inch deep, on the face contains raised thick block letters of GARBER, which span 5 1/4 inches and stand 1 1/8 inches. The letter "G" may easily be mistaken for a "C" because of the style of font used. Not all frogs are marked with a name. The interior consists of 10 to 15 percent subrounded to subangular milky white and clear quartz, grayish brown shale, and minor granite, mostly less than 1/4 inch in diameter, but could be as much as 3/8 inch in diameter, in a porous (3 to 8 percent) orange-red sandy clay body, which may show faint laminations. This brick was made using the soft-mud process in a brick press. Height dimensions vary. Length 8 1/2, width 4, height 2 1/4 - 2 1/2 inches.

View of the marked face of a Garber common brick. Photo courtesy of Ron Rose.

View of the side of a Garber common brick bat showing part of a 1/4 inch lip on top.

View of the rough top face of a Garber common brick bat.

View of the interior of a Garber common brick showing
the faint laminations in the porous clay, a large white
granite (3/8 inch diameter at lower right), and quartz.

View of the interior of a Garber common brick showing
several milky white quartz in a porous clay body.

View of the interior of a Garber common brick showing
grayish brown shale and white quartz in a porous clay body.

Microscopic view of the smooth surface of a Garber
common brick showing white quartz and orange bits
of brick dust (50x, field of view is 1/4 inch).

Microscopic view of the interior clay body of a
Garber brick (50x, field of view is 1/4 inch).


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Armor, Samuel, History of Orange 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, 1921, p. 1253-1254.

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

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Garber Producing Million A Month, Brick and Clay Record, v. 63, no. 5, 1923, p. 534.

Garber Brick & Tile Incorporates, Brick and Clay Record, v. 64, no. 6, 1924, p. 437.

Garber, H., Hollow Tile, U.S. Patent Office, 1,583,921, May 11, 1926.

Higgins, Josh, written communications, 2013.

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Root, Lloyd L., Mining In California, California State Mining Bureau, 21st Report of the State Mineralogist, 1925, p. 65.

Rose, Ron, personal communications and brick photograph, 2009.

Santa Ana City Directory, 1923.

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Santa Ana City Directory, 1925.

Santa Ana City Directory, 1926.

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Wellington Machine Company ledgers, 1925, copied by Josh Higgins, 2013.

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