California brick
CALIFORNIA BRICKS


Harbison-Walker Refractories Company, Ione

History


The former plant of the
Ione Fire Brick Company, located 1.4 miles southeast of Ione in Amador County, California, was purchased by the Harbison-Walker Refractories Company in 1959. The succession of owners leading up to this purchase included the Ione Fire Brick Company (1907-1925), Stockton Fire Brick Company (1925-1944), Western Refractories Company (1944-1958), and Pacific Clay Products (1958-1959). Harbison-Walker Refractories purchased the plant to introduce its medium-, high-, and superduty firebricks to the western market. This supplemented their basic refractories plant in Warm Springs (Fremont), California, which they had opened in 1953. Although they had a local sales office in San Francisco, their main office was in the Farmers Bank Building in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In 1964, they moved the headquarters to Gateway 2, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The San Francisco office was located in the Bank of America Building at 625 Market Street with Lincoln McGill as district sales manager. In 1960, the company opened a sales office in Los Angeles with C. F. Wenrich as district sales manager.

Ione Fire Brick Co. brickyard
View of the former plant of the Ione Fire Brick Company that was acquired
by Harbison-Walker Refractories Company in 1959. From Bradley, 1927.


Harbison-Walker Refractories was originally known as the Star Fire Brick Company, founded in 1865 by J. K. Lemon and others in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In 1875, Hay Walker and Samuel P. Harbison took over operations and, in 1902, changed the name to Harbison-Walker Refractories Company. The company made all types of refractory products for the steel, glass, and other industries. The company prospered by supplying the steel mills of Andrew Carnegie. Harbison-Walker Refractories eventually expanded to 33 plants across the United States and built plants in Canada, Mexico, and Peru.

The high-alumina clay was mined from six different pits in the Eocene-age Ione Formation near the plant. The clay was transported to the plant by rail. Quartzite was also mined at the Custer pit south of Ione for making silica brick. The plant operations by this company were similar to that used by the former Western Refractories Company. The plant was equipped with the stiff-mud extruding and wire-cut machines and the power-press. The same brand names of the former company were used, including AMADOR, WESTERN, WESTERN T, WESTERN OHC, and ZENITH. Only the WESTERN T brand was extruded and wire-cut. The rest were power pressed. In 1960, the company issued an eight-page brochure describing the firebrick brands made at the plant. These were also described in the company book published in 1961. AMADOR was the medium-duty firebrick used for backing high-duty brick and stack linings. WESTERN brands were the high-duty firebrick used where resistance to spalling and abrasion was important or slag attack. WESTERN OHC was used in open hearth furnaces and other regenerator checkers. ZENITH was the superduty firebrick used in general superduty services, boiler settings, and heating furnaces. Silica brick, possibly the STAR brand, was made until May 1, 1963, when the lease on the quartzite quarry terminated.

A distinguishing characteristic of the Harbison-Walker firebricks compared to the previous ones made at the Ione plant is the presence of a strong, rounded-rectangular shallow frog in the face of each brick. Firebricks made by former operators used the rectangular plate to hold the brand name. Another distinguishing characteristic of the Harbison-Walker brick is the wider range of colors ranging from gray to buff to yellow, caused by the amount of iron content in the clay. Another noted feature is the smaller height, or thickness, of the rectangular bricks, which are only 2 inches in height. These firebricks, probably because they are more recent and had wider distribution, appear to be more commonly found than the ones from the previous companies.

Because of the declining demand for firebrick, the Ione plant fell into hard times during the late 1960s. Harbison-Walker Refractories decided to close the Ione plant about 1968. The San Francisco sales office was closed in 1969. The Ione plant was sold to the Granada Clay Products Company of Los Angeles in 1970.

Harbison-Walker Brick

Amador Medium-Duty Firebrick

Amador firebrick is yellow or buff or gray, mostly uniform in color. The surface is smooth with flattened grains and crackled. The form is perfect with straight and sharp edges and sharp corners, if not broken. The faces may show longitudinal grooves. One of the faces is centered with a shallow rounded-rectangular frog that is 5 3/4 inches in length and 7/8 inch in height. Inside the frog are recessed block letters spelled "AMADOR" that span 4 3/4 inches in length and 3/4 inch in height. The interior is composed of 96 percent granular subangular cream clay, ranging up to 1/8 inch across, 2 percent subangular white quartz, and 2 percent round black iron, some with blister holes, up to 1/8 inch across. This brick was made by the power-pressed process. Two sizes are noted: length 9, width 4 1/2, height 2, or length 8 1/4, width 4 1/2, height 2 inches.

Harbison-Walker Amador brick
View of the marked face of the Harbison-Walker Amador firebrick.

Harbison-Walker Amador brick
View of the side of the Harbison-Walker Amador firebrick.

Harbison-Walker Amador brick interior
View of the interior of the Harbison-Walker Amador firebrick.

Amador Medium-Duty Arch 1 Firebrick

Amador 1 firebrick is an arch-shaped brick. It is yellow and mostly uniform in color. The surface is smooth with flattened grains and crackled. The form is perfect with straight and sharp edges and sharp corners, if not broken. The faces may show minor pits. One of the faces is marked in the center on two lines. The top line is a shallow rounded-rectangular frog that is 5 3/4 inches in length and 7/8 inch in height. Inside the frog are recessed block letters spelled "AMADOR" that span 4 3/4 inches in length and 3/4 inch in height. The second line is a number one "1" that is 7/8 inch in height. The interior is composed of 96 percent granular subangular cream clay, ranging up to 1/8 inch across, 2 percent subangular white quartz, and 2 percent round black iron, some with blister holes, up to 1/8 inch across. This brick was made by the power-pressed process. Length 9, width 4 1/2, height 2 1//2 - 2 1/4 inches.

Harbison-Walker Amador 1 Arch brick
View of the marked face of the Harbison-Walker Amador 1 arch firebrick. The left side is missing.

Harbison-Walker Amador 1 Arch brick
View of the side of the Harbison-Walker Amador 1 arch firebrick.

Harbison-Walker Amador 1 Arch brick interior
View of the interior of the Harbison-Walker Amador 1 arch firebrick.


Western High-Duty Firebrick

Western firebrick is buff or gray and mostly uniform in color. The surface is smooth with flattened grains and crackled. The form is perfect with straight and sharp edges and sharp corners, if not broken. One of the faces is marked in the center with a shallow rounded-rectangular frog that is 5 3/4 inches in length and 1 inch in height. Inside the frog are recessed block letters spelled "WESTERN" that span 5 inches in length and 3/4 inch in height. The interior is composed of 97 percent granular subangular cream clay, ranging up to 1/8 inch across, and 3 percent subangular gray quartz, up to 1/8 inch across. This brick was made by the power-pressed process. Length 9, width 4 1/2, height 2 1//2 inches.

Harbison-Walker Western brick
View of the marked face of the Harbison-Walker Western firebrick.

Harbison-Walker Western brick
View of the side of the Harbison-Walker Western firebrick.

Harbison-Walker Western brick
View of the marked face of the yellow Harbison-Walker Western firebrick.

Harbison-Walker Western brick
View of the side of the yellow Harbison-Walker Western firebrick.

Harbison-Walker Western brick
Close up view of the yellow Harbison-Walker Western firebrick showing the pressed grain surface.

Harbison-Walker Western brick
View of the marked face of the buff Harbison-Walker Western firebrick.

Harbison-Walker Western brick
View of the side of the buff Harbison-Walker Western firebrick.

Harbison-Walker Western brick
Close up view of the buff Harbison-Walker Western firebrick showing the pressed grain surface.

Western T High-Duty Firebrick

Western T firebrick is yellow and mostly uniform in color. The surface is smooth. The form is perfect with straight and sharp edges and sharp corners, if not broken. The faces display curved wire-cut marks and small pits. One of the faces is marked in the center with a shallow rounded-rectangular frog that is 5 5/8 inches in length and 7/8 inch in height. Inside the frog are recessed thin block letters spelled "WESTERN T" that span 5 1/8 inches in length and 5/8 inch in height. The interior is composed of 95 percent granular subangular cream clay, ranging up to 1/8 inch across, and 5 percent round brown iron, up to 1/8 inch across. This brick was made by the stiff-mud, extruded, wire-cut process and repressed. Length 9, width 4 1/2, height 2 1//2 inches.

Harbison-Walker Western T brick
View of the marked face of the Harbison-Walker Western T firebrick.

Western T/1 High-Duty Firebrick

Western T/1 firebrick is yellow or buff and mostly uniform in color. The surface is smooth. The form is perfect with straight and sharp edges and sharp corners, if not broken. The faces display curved wire-cut marks and small pits. One of the faces is marked in the center on two lines. The top line is a shallow rounded-rectangular frog that is 5 5/8 inches in length and 7/8 inch in height. Inside the frog are recessed thin block letters spelled "WESTERN T" that span 5 1/8 inches in length and 5/8 inch in height. The second line is a number one "1" that is 7/8 inch in height inside a recessed circle one inch in diameter. The interior is composed of 95 percent granular subangular cream clay, ranging up to 1/8 inch across, and 5 percent round brown iron, up to 1/8 inch across. This brick was made by the stiff-mud, extruded, wire-cut process and repressed. Length 9, width 4 1/2, height 2 1/2 inches.

Harbison-Walker Western T/1 brick
View of the marked face of the Harbison-Walker Western T/1 firebrick.

Harbison-Walker Western T/1 brick
View of the side of the Harbison-Walker Western T/1 firebrick.

Zenith Super-Duty Firebrick

Zenith firebrick is buff and mostly uniform in color. The surface is smooth with flattened grains. The form is perfect with straight and sharp edges and sharp corners, if not broken. One of the faces is marked in the center with a shallow rounded-rectangular frog that is 6 inches in length and 1 inch in height. Inside the frog are recessed block letters spelled "ZENITH" that span 4 1/2 inches in length and 3/4 inch in height. The interior is composed of 94 percent granular subangular cream clay, ranging up to 1/8 inch across, 2 percent subangular gray quartz, and 2 percent round brown iron, up to 1/8 inch across. This brick was made by the power pressed process. Length 9, width 4 1/2, height 2 1/2 inches.

Harbison-Walker Zenith firebrick
View of the marked face of the Harbison-Walker Zenith firebrick. The left side is missing.

Harbison-Walker Zenith firebrick interior
View of the interior of the Harbison-Walker Zenith firebrick.


References

American Ceramic Society, Harbison-Walker Moves Headquarters, Bulletin, v. 43, no. 2, 1964, p. 142.

American Ceramic Society, Los Angeles Office, Bulletin, v. 39, no. 6, 1960, p. 28.

American Ceramic Society, Pacific Clay Sells Division, Bulletin, v. 38, no. 3, 1959, p. 122.

American Ceramic Society, Refractories, Bulletin, v. 39, no. 7, 1960, p. 4.

American Ceramic Society, Refractories, Bulletin, v. 39, no. 12, 1960, p. 4.

Brown, B.C., The Mineral Industry of California, U. S. Bureau of Mines Minerals Yearbook Area Reports: Domestic 1969, v. 3, 1969, p. 159-160.

Davis, Fenelon F., and Goldman, Harold B., Directory of Mineral Producers In California For 1960, 1961, and 1962, California Division of Mines and Geology, 58th Report of the State Geologist, 1966, p. 131-209.

Davis, L. E., The Mineral Industry of California, U. S. Bureau of Mines Minerals Yearbook Area Reports: Domestic 1963, v. 3, 1964, p. 196.

Davis, L. E., Edgerton, C. D., Ashizawa, R. Y., and Giorgetti, L., The Mineral Industry of California, U. S. Bureau of Mines Minerals Yearbook Area Reports: Domestic 1961, v. 3, 1962, p. 184-185.

Harbison-Walker Refractories Company, Modern Refractory Practice, The William Feather Company, Cleveland, OH, 1961.

Mitko, Francis C., and Stock, John A., The Mineral Industry of California, U. S. Bureau of Mines Minerals Yearbook Area Reports: Domestic 1970, v. 2, 1970, p. 136.

San Francisco City Directories, 1925-1969.


Copyright 2011 Dan Mosier

Contact Dan Mosier at danmosier@earthlink.net.