California brick
CALIFORNIA BRICKS


Gladding, McBean and Company, Alberhill

History


Los Angeles Pressed Brick Co. brickyard at Alberhill
View of Plant Number 4 of the Los Angeles Pressed Brick Company, at Alberhill, Riverside County,
California, which was controlled by the Gladding, McBean and Company. From Boalich and others, 1920.

In 1926, the Gladding, McBean and Company of Lincoln, California, took control of all the brick plants of the Los Angeles Pressed Brick Company in Southern California upon retirement of Howard Frost, the former president of the latter company. Gladding, McBean and Company announced that the Los Angeles Pressed Brick Company would retain its name and identity and continue to manufacture its same line of products. However, this apparently was not the case at Alberhill as we will see below. Atholl McBean was the president of both companies at the time of the merger. General Manager and Vice-President Richard D. Hatton of the Los Angeles Pressed Brick Company resigned and his position was succeeded by Fred B. Ortman, vice-president of Gladding, McBean and Company and general manager of its Southern California Division. The directors of Gladding, McBean and Company were capitalists in both San Francisco and Los Angeles. The merging of the two companies on February 22, 1926, resulted in consolidating the management into a single office that was on the top floor of the Pacific Finance Building in Los Angeles. Annual gross sales of the two companies was expected to be in the range of $6,000,000 to $7,000,000. In 1931, the company office and products showroom were moved to 2901 Los Feliz Boulevard in Glendale.

At the Alberhill Plant Number 4, Gladding, McBean and Company continued to make firebrick from 1926 to 1935. The same brands of firebrick were produced, except on the bricks, the oval logo of Gladding, McBean and Company had replaced the abbreviations of the Los Angeles Pressed Brick Company. The brands included the three star, No. 1, No. 2, FLINT, and XX in standard and in special shapes. The firebricks from the Alberhill plant can be distinguished from the bricks made at other Gladding, McBean and Company plants by the lighter cream or light buff color of the clay, which was described as a "white-burning clay". In 1929, they received the largest order for special firebrick, totaling 3,000,000, from the Petroleum Conversion Corporation in Dallas, Texas. The firebricks from this plant were shipped to factories throughout the southwestern United States.

During the mid-1930s, the demand for high-alumina firebrick had declined and Gladding, McBean and Company was forced with the decision of reducing production and eliminating some of its firebrick-producing plants. The Paleocene-age fire clay from the nearby Sloan pits on their property at Alberhill was being depleted and the declining orders for their high-alumina firebrick couldn't justify extending the pit to reach deeply buried clay beyond the present pit boundaries. The fire clay averaged only about 4 feet in the pit and the clay bed was very erratic in its extent and quality. Mining was expensive because over 30 feet of overburden had to be removed to reach the clay bed. So, in 1935, they decided to stop mining clay and close the plant at Alberhill. The plant was eventually dismantled, but the company held on to the valuable clay property. In 1950, they returned to conduct more drilling and testing of the clay deposit and began mining and shipping mostly red-burning clay to other plants in the Los Angeles area that they still operated. Gladding, McBean and Company ended clay mining at Alberhill in the early 1980s.

Gladding, McBean and Company Firebrick

Three-Star Firebrick

The three-star high-alumina firebrick is buff with smooth, crackled surfaces. The edges are straight and sharp. The corners are broken, but may have been sharp when new. The faces display longitudinal grooves made by the extruder. The marked face contains a recessed oval "GMcB" logo that measures 2 inches by 1 1/4 inches. Beneath the logo also recessed are three star symbols, each 7/8 inch high and 3/4 inch wide inside a shallow rectagular frog that is 3 1/4 inches long and 7/8 high. The internal clay contains 3 percent round black iron spots up to 1/8 inch across, some with blister holes and surrounding orange stains, 15 percent subangular white quartz grog up to 1/8 inch across, 30 percent subangular cream feldspar up to 1/8 inch across, in a cream fine clay body. The example shown is a special face-skewed brick that was made by the stiff-mud extruding process, end-cut, and repressed. This brand was also made in standard shape. Length 8 7/8, width 4 1/2, height 2 1/4 inches.

Gladding, McBean and Co. three-star firebrick
View of the marked face of the Gladding, McBean and Company three-star brand
firebrick, with the lower thin edge partly broken off. Photo by Dan Mosier.

Gladding, McBean and Co. three-star firebrick
View showing the triangular end of the Gladding, McBean and Company three-star firebrick.

No. 1 Firebrick

The Number 1 firebrick has a higher alumina and lower silica content than the three star brand. It is buff with a smooth, crackled surface. Round brown spots of iron oxide and white quartz are visible on the surface. The iron content is about 10 percent. The edges are straight and sharp, if not broken. The corners are broken, but was probably sharp when new. The marked face has a recessed oval company logo. Beneath is a recessed number "1". This brick was made using the stiff-mud extruding process, wirecut, and repressed. No dimensions are available.

Gladding, McBean and Co. No. 1 firebrick
View of the marked face of the Gladding, McBean and Company No. 1 brand firebrick. Photo courtesy of James Freedner.

Flint Ladle Firebrick

The Flint ladle firebrick was a special brick made for lining ladles and can be found in standard or split sizes. It is mottled dark salmon with a smooth surface. The edges are straight and sharp, if not broken. The corners are sharp, if not broken. The marked face has a recessed name of FLINT in block letters in a rounded rectangular name plate. The plate is 5 1/2 inches long and 1 inch wide. The name spans 3 3/4 inches and stands 3/4 inch in height. The interior is dense and compact with coarse grains of fused flint clay, which are subangular salmon to grayish black, giving the surface a spotted look, and the grains are less than 1/8 inch across. This is a tough brick made either using the power-pressed or the stiff-mud extruding process, the latter of which is labeled SM beneath the brand name. Length 9, width 4 1/2, height 2 1/2 inches.

Marked face of the Gladding, McBean and Co. FLINT ladle firebrick
View of the marked face of the Gladding, McBean and Company Flint ladle dry-pressed firebrick.

Marched face of the Gladding, McBean and Co. FLINT/SM ladle firebrick
View of the marked face of the Gladding, McBean and Company Flint Stiff-Mud ladle firebrick.

Flint Acid Brick

The Flint Acid brick was a special brick made for acid conditions. It is mottled light salmon with a smooth surface. The edges are straight and sharp, if not broken. The corners are sharp, if not broken. The marked face has the recessed name of FLINT in block letters on the first line and ACID in block letters on the second line, both spanning 3 3/4 inches and standing 3/4 inch in height, and the sporting name plate outline may not be noticeable. The interior is compact with coarse grains of fused flint clay, which are subangular salmon to grayish black, giving the surface a spotted look, the darker parts constituting about 15 percent. The grains are less than 1/8 inch across. This is a tough and dense brick made using the power-pressed process. Length 9, width 4 1/2, height 2 5/8 inches.

Marked face of the Gladding, McBean and Co. FLINT acid brick
View of the marked face of the Gladding, McBean and Company Flint
Acid brick. The right side is broken. Donated by James Freedner.

Interior of the Gladding, McBean and Co. FLINT acid brick
View of the interior of the Gladding, McBean and Company Flint Acid brick.

References

Averill, Charles V., and Norman, L.A., Jr., Counties of California, California Journal of Mines and Geology v. 47, no. 2, 1951, p. 271-464.

Boalich, E.S., Castello, W.O., Huguenin, Emile, Logan, C.A., and Tucker, W.B., The Clay Industry In California, California State Mining Bureau Preliminary Report 7, 1920, p. 86-89.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 68, no. 4, 1926, p. 283.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 75, no. 2, 1929, p. 110.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 78, no. 13, 1931, p. 683.

California Division of Mines and Geology, Mines and Mineral Producers in California, Special Report 58, p. 12.

Davies, S. N., and Bramlette, M. N., The Alberhill and Other Clay Deposits of Temescal Canyon, Riverside County, California, U. S. Geological Survey Open-File Report no. 211.

Gladding McBean and Company, Refractories Handbook, 1951.

Symons, Henry H., California Mineral Production and Directory of Mineral Producers For 1935, California State Mining Bureau Bulletin 112, 1937.

Copyright 2010 Dan Mosier

Contact Dan Mosier at danmosier@earthlink.net.