California brick

Claude P. Hancock (C.P. Hancock and Son), Riverside Yard
Riverside Machine Brick Company


In the 1890s, Claude P. Hancock, born in 1867 and a native of Indiana, was a building contractor who opened a brickyard in Riverside. He married Margaret Welbourne in 1893, and they had two children, Beatrice and Donald. Their residence was at 1330 Lemon Street in Riverside. Over the years, Hancock apparently mined clay from several different pits around Riverside. The earliest one was in the vicinity of North Market Street, another near 14th and High streets, and the last was at the north end of Lemon Street. One of the clay deposits was described as loam five feet thick and covered six acres of ground. The pit near 14th and High streets covered 14 acres of ground. The red clay was mined with a steam shovel to depths of 10 or 20 feet.

In 1900, the Riverside Machine Brick Company was organized by C.P. Hancock as president, A.A. Caldwell as secretary, and C. Kennedy as treasurer, with a capital of $10,000. This company built a plant near 14th and High streets. They used an Anderson horizontal brick machine with a capacity of 25,000 to 40,000 bricks per day. A 30 h.p. engine was used to force the flames through the kilns and oil was used as fuel. They had planned to install a press to make fancy bricks.

By 1908, Hancock had moved to the clay pit near Lemon Street. The brick plant was powered by a 35-h.p. engine and equipped with an 80-h.p. boiler. Initially, a Potts soft-mud brick machine was used to mold the bricks, but this was changed to a stiff-mud extruder and wire-cutter in the 1920s. The wet bricks were air-dried and burned in open kilns. Initially, oil was the fuel used in the kilns, but that was changed to natural gas in the 1920s. The plant started with a capacity of 36,500 bricks per day, but by 1928, it had increased to 43,000 bricks per day.

The Hancock brickyard operated with 20 to 30 men, depending on demand. They produced only red common brick and some of the earlier bricks were marked with the name HANCOCK on the face of the brick. When son Donald came of age in the 1920s, he became the proprietor of the Hancock brickyard, and the firm's name was changed to C.P. Hancock and Son. It was at this time that the brick plant was modernized. By 1928, the clay deposit in Riverside had been exhausted and a new deposit was found in Highgrove, San Bernardino County. The clay was trucked to the Riverside plant from Highgrove until 1956, when the plant was moved to Highrove (see Hancock Brick Co. under San Bernardino County for details). Hancock bricks supplied most of the building bricks in Riverside and vicinity. Today, only the depressions of the abandoned clay pits in Riverside can be seen and are now covered with residential homes.

Hancock Brick

Hancock Common Brick

Common brick is a pale red, uniform color, with sand-struck surfaces, some displaying sparkly mica flakes. The edges are slightly undulatory and dull and the corners are dull. The sides and ends show no marks. The top face is pitted with minor cracks and transverse striation marks. Stack indents were seen on the top face of one sample. The bottom face is marked with a beveled rectangular frog, 6 3/8 inches long, 2 inches wide, and 1/16 to 1/4 inch deep. Centered in the frog are raised block letters of HANCOCK, with the name found in varying sizes. In the smaller marked brick, the letters span 5 1/2 inches in length and 3/4 inch in height. In the middle range, the letters span 5 3/4 inches in length and 1 1/8 inches in height. In the larger marked brick, the letters span 6 inches in length and 1 1/4 inches in height. The clay body is very fine with occassional (3 percent) rounded, clear to white quartz up to 1/16 inch across. I estimate that these marked bricks were probably made between 1908 and 1925, using the hand-molded, sand-struck, soft-mud process. Length 8 - 8 1/4, width 3 3/4, height 2 3/8 - 2 1/2 inches.

Hancock brick marked face
View of the marked face of a Hancock brick. Donated by Marcia Miller.

Hancock brick
View of the side of a Hancock brick.

Hancock brick
View of the end of a Hancock brick.

Hancock brick
View of the pitted top face of a Hancock brick covered in part with white mortar.

Hancock Wire-Cut Brick

Hancock wire-cut bricks were reported by Ronald and Josh Higgins, who sent pictures of a wall of a restaurant in Orange, California. The bricks came in shades orange red mottled with white, brown, blue, and green coatings. The sides are smooth and the faces show wire-cut marks. The edges are straight and sharp. The corners are sharp, if not broken. Some sides display a worm texture (rounded long depressions), pits, transverse grooves, and white lime splashes or streaks. Some are coated with a unique bluish or greenish tint. This brick was made using the stiff-mud process, extruded, and wire-cut. No dimensions are available.

Hancock brick
View of the sides of Hancock bricks showing a range of colors and textures. Photo courtesy of Josh Higgins.

Hancock brick
View of the sides of Hancock bricks showing the unique fired bluish and
greenish coatings that the company invented. Photo courtesy of Josh Higgins.


Aubrey, Lewis E., The Structural and Industrial Materials of California, California State Mining Bureau Bulletin 38, 1906, p. 252.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 32, no. 1, July 1899, p. 34.

Dietrich, Waldemar F., The Clay Resources and the Ceramic Industry of California, California State Mining Bureau Bulletin 99, 1928, p. 181.

Federal Census Records, 1900.

Federal Census Records, 1910.

Federal Census Records, 1920.

Federal Census Records, 1930.

Freedner, James, written communications, 2008.

Higgins, Josh, written communications, 2012.

Miller, Marcy, written communications, 2008.

Symons, Henry H., California Mineral Production for 1927, California State Mining Bureau Bulletin 101, 1928, p. 264

Symons, Henry H., and Davis, Fenelon F., Directory of Mineral Producers In California During 1956, California Division of Mines, California Journal of Mines and Geology, v. 54, no. 1, 1958, p. 128.

Copyright 2008 Dan Mosier

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