California brick
CALIFORNIA BRICKS


Hyfire Brick Company

History


 brick
The Hyfire Brick Company yard is on the right, Vallejo, 1917. Houze Brick
and Cement Company yard is on the left. Vallejo Brick and Tile Company
yard is in the distance on the far left. From the Vallejo Times Herald, 1976.

On January 6, 1906, the Hyfire Brick Company was incorporated in San Francisco, California, with a capital stock of $100,000, to manufacture firebrick at the former brickyard of the defunct Hydraulic Press Brick Company. The Hydraulic Press Brick Company was foreclosed by the Bank of California in May 1896. Officers of the Hyfire Brick Company were Gustav Abrahamson, president; E.C. Kemble, secretary; and M. Abrahamson, treasurer. The office was at 22 Market Street in San Francisco.

On May 14, 1906, the Bank of California conveyed the former property of the Hydraulic Press Brick Company, comprising about 103 acres and all of the buildings, kilns, machinery, wharf, and right-of-way, to the Hyfire Brick Company for $10. The Hyfire Brick Company in turn sold 25 acres of this land to F.M. Knapp and S.W. West, but retained the right-of-way through the property. This 25-acre tract was later sold to the Press Brick and Supply Company, which had built a brick plant adjacent to the Hyfire brickyard in 1908 and it was operated by the Houze Brick and Cement Company.

Fire clay was obtained from Amador County and shipped to South Vallejo by the Southern Pacific Railroad. Chrome iron and silica were shipped by rail from Fresno County. No mining was done by this company on its property. The Southern Pacific Company was planning to put a spur track to the brickyard, but apparently this never happened. Barges were used for shipping to and from the brickyard from its own wharf on Mare Island Straits.

The Hyfire brickyard consisted of a building 350 feet long, 200 feet wide, and 50 feet high, in which housed the continuous kiln, which was 300 feet long. The building contained a brick molding room with a powerful hydraulic press that cost $28,000, and capable of pressing one brick per second. In June 1906, the plant was producing 10,000 brick per day with 15 employees. Only firebrick for fireplaces and furnaces were manufactured here and these were stamped with the company name HYFIRE. The hydraulic dry-pressed process was used to form the brick, so no dryers were needed before firing in the kiln. A.B. Horne was the superintendent of the brick plant. James Drummond was the kiln burner with over 20 years of experience.

In 1907, the directors of the Hyfire Brick Company had voted to spend $1 million for new machinery that would double the output of the plant. This apparently did not occur as the brickyard had closed due to decreasing orders and increasing debt. There was also a change in management. Gustav Abrahamson resigned as president and was succeeded by Harry Templeton of San Francisco and later Albert Abrahamson. B.J. Gallagher became the new plant superintendent.

In February 1908, when Gustav Abrahamson was pressuring the company to repay his $9,622 loan to the company, the directors retaliated by accusing Abrahamson of embezzling funds, which case was quickly dismissed. The company at this time was in bad financial straits. Gustav Abrahamson decided to reorganize the company by filing a new articles of incorporation with the Solano County Clerk on August 3, 1909, with a capital stock of $100,000 divided into 100,000 shares at $1 each. The directors were Gustav Abrahamson, Albert Abrahamson, E.E. Kemble, F.A. Alexander, and Abraham Mayer. The plan was to reopen the brickyard for the production of both firebrick and common brick. But the brickyard never reopened.

In 1911, Christian Hoffman of Oakland, who owned the adjacent Houze brickyard, filed suit against the Hyfire Brick Company to foreclose a mortgage for $13,500 that was executed at the Oakland Bank of Savings. Like all of the other brickyards in this area, the Hyfire plant was eventually razed and the company dissolved.

Hyfire Brick

The Hyfire firebrick was brought to my attention by David Garcia and I thank him for the description and pictures of this rare firebrick. The original color of the firebrick is salmon. This sample displays an over-burnt end with a purplish brown to black color and red-core flashing on the sides. The brick is slightly deformed on the burnt end. The surface is smooth. The edges and corners are sharp. No discernable minerals are visible on the surface. On one face is impressed the company name HYFIRE recessed in block letters inside a tight, beveled-edged rectangular frog, which is 5 1/2 inches in length and 1 1/4 inches in height. A slightly raised round lug 5/8 inches in diameter is present at both ends of the frog. Two round lugs on the reverse face are in the same position. These lugs are diagnostic features for this firebrick. This brick was made using the dry-pressed process. Length 8 3/16, width 4 1/8, height 2 1/2 inches.

View of the marked face of the Hyfire firebrick.
View of the marked face of the Hyfire firebrick. Photo courtesy of David Garcia.

View of the reversed unmarked face of the Hyfire firebrick.
View of the reversed unmarked face of the Hyfire firebrick showing two round lugs. Photo courtesy of David Garcia.

View of the side of the Hyfire firebrick.
View of the side of the Hyfire firebrick showing the red cored flashing. Photo courtesy of David Garcia.

 brick
View of the burnt end of the Hyfire firebrick. Photo courtesy of David Garcia.

References

Accused Business Man Cries Fraud, San Francisco Call, February 13, 1908.

Alleged Embezzler Is Anxious To Be Tried, Oakland Tribune, January 13, 1908.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 26, no. 5, 1907, p. 282.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 27, no. 3, 1907, p. 97.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 27, no. 5, 1907, p. 175.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 29, no. 1, 1908, p. 334.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 29, no. 1, 1908, p. 376.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 31, no. 3, 1909, p. 115.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 38, 1911, p. 584.

Clay Record, v. 32, no. 12, June 1908, p. 25.

Clay Record, v. 35, no. 4, August 1909, p. 27.

Delinquent Sale Notice, Hyfire Brick Company, Vallejo Chronicle, October 31, 1908.

Garcia, David, written communications, 2014.

Hyfire Brick Co. Incorporated, Vallejo Chronicle, August 4, 1909.

Kern, James E., Executive Director of the Vallejo Naval and Historical Museum, personal communication, 2013.

Oaklanders To Take Over Big Brick Works, Clay Record, v. 35, no. 4, August 1909, p. 30.

Planning A Spur Track, Vallejo Chronicle, July 12, 1906.

Progress, Vallejo Chronicle, June 20, 1906.

Quashes Abrahamson Case, San Francisco Call, February 14, 1908.

Report of the Secretary of State, State Corporations, Journal of the Senate of the State of California, 1908, p. 71.

San Francisco City Directory, 1906.

Sanborn Map Company. Vallejo, Solano Co., Cal. March 1919.

Solano County Deeds, Bank of California to Hyfire Brick Co., 1906, Book 147, p. 191-193.

Solano County Deeds, F.M. Knapp and S.W. West to Hyfire Brick Co., 1906, Book 147, p. 329.

Solano County Deeds, Hyfire Brick Co. to F.W. Beardslee, 1907, Book 170, p. 67-69.

Solano County Deeds, Hyfire Brick Co. to Press Brick and Supply Co., 1908, Book 171, p. 135-138.

Vallejo Times Herald, January 25, 1976.

Copyright 2014 Dan Mosier

Contact Dan Mosier at danmosier@earthlink.net.