California brick
CALIFORNIA BRICKS


Jonathan Hanks

Hanks & Company

History


Jonathan G. Hanks, according to the Federal Census Records, was born about 1811 in Vermont and, in 1850, he was working in Akron, Ohio, as a brickmaker. His wife's name was Sarah, and they had at least 8 children. By 1860, Hanks was found residing in Georgetown, California, where he and one of his sons, Calvin, were listed as brickmakers. By 1870, Hanks and another son, Galusha, were working as brick masons in Vallejo, Solano County, California. His youngest daughter Emma was residing with them in Vallejo. In the History of Solano County, there is a biography of a person with a similar name, but that he was born in Summit County, Ohio, in 1829, and that he left for California in May 1849, arriving in Solano County in March 1850. This could be the eldest son of our subject, who apparently worked with his father briefly at Truckee and Vallejo, and served as a deputy sheriff in Truckee, a police in Virginia City, and a detective in Vallejo.

In 1871, Jona Hanks, Sr., found a good source of brick clay at the present intersection of Maryland and El Dorado streets in Vallejo. Here he erected a field kiln to manufacture common red brick under the name Hanks & Company. His second kiln fired 475,000 brick in September 1872. At that time, bricks were in such great demand that he could supply only a small part of the orders. Hanks bricks were used in all of the brick buildings built in Vallejo during the 1870s, however not all of the bricks in these buildings were his bricks. Most of the bricks used in the buildings were imported from the brickyards in San Francisco or Sacramento.

A description of Hanks' brickyard was not found. From the known brick, he used the soft mud process to make common red brick. That is, the clay was mixed with water and formed in wooden molds, which were lubricated with fine sand. His field kilns were large and probably fired using wood. Apparently he was able to make between 400,000 and 500,000 bricks per year.

It is not known exactly when Hanks closed his brickyard, but it was sometime prior to 1878. In 1880, Hanks had moved to Calistoga, Napa County, California, to reside with his married daughter Emma Smith. He was 70 years old and probably retired.

Hanks Brick

One sample of a common brick bat from Hanks' brickyard site provides the following description. Hanks common brick is dark pale red with a heavy coating of fine sand on the surface. The sand consists of subrounded gray and orange-stained quartz and golden mica. The bottom face is smooth and flat. The top face is rough with pits, visible clasts, and, because of the small sample size, strike direction is undetermined. The top edges have an irregular 1/4 inch thick lip. The edges are dull. The interior contains 5 percent rounded yellowish gray clay, subrounded gray sandstone, and subangular white quartz, all less than 1/4 inch in diameter, in a porous, orange-red fine clay body. This brick was made using the soft-mud process. Length ?, width ?, height 2 3/8 inches.

View of rough top face of Hanks common brick bat.
View of rough top face of Hanks common brick bat.

View of the side of Hanks common brick bat.
View of the side of Hanks common brick bat.

View of the interior of Hanks common brick bat.
View of the interior of Hanks common brick bat.


View of the interior of Hanks common brick bat.
View of the interior of Hanks common brick bat.


Microscopic view of the interior of Hanks common brick bat.
Microscopic view of the interior of Hanks common
brick bat (50x, field of view is 1/4 inch).


References

Lucy, Thomas, Vallejo's Brick, Tile, and Terra Cotta Industries, Solano Historian, December 1988.

Federal Census Records, 1850.

Federal Census Records, 1860.

Federal Census Records, 1870.

Federal Census Records, 1880.

History of Solano County, Wood, Alley & Co., San Francisco, CA, 1879, p. 353.

Solano County Directory, 1878-1879.

Vallejo Evening Chronicle, January 2, 1872.

Vallejo Evening Chronicle, July 11, 1872.

Vallejo Evening Chronicle, July 23, 1872.

Vallejo Evening Chronicle, September 4, 1872.

Copyright 2013 Dan Mosier

Contact Dan Mosier at danmosier@earthlink.net.