California brick
CALIFORNIA BRICKS


Los Angeles Pressed Brick Company, Alberhill

Los Angeles Pressed Brick Co. letterhead
Letterhead from Brick and Clay Record, 1924.

History


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

A new firebrick and tile manufacturing plant was built in Riverside County, California, by the Los Angeles Pressed Brick Company. In 1887, this company was founded by Charles Henry Frost, a native of Ithaca, New York. He moved from Chicago, Illinois, to Pasadena, California in 1886 to look for new investment opportunities and to improve his health. Charles and his son Howard Frost ran the brick business from their office in the Frost Building in downtown Los Angeles.

The main brickyard of the Los Angeles Pressed Brick Company was located on three acres of land on Cleveland and College streets in Los Angeles until it was moved in 1916 to a new location at 952 Date Street. They manufactured plain, molded, and ornamental pressed bricks, enameled brick, architectural terra cotta, fire-proof hollow tile, roofing tile, mantel and hearth tile, and fire-clay goods. In 1898, they began making firebricks until the Alberhill plant was built.

In November 1915, plans were drawn for a new firebrick plant at Alberhill in Riverside County, where the company owned 320 acres of clay land. The plans included hollow-tile dwellings for the workers and a townsite. But more importantly was the negotiation of reduced freight rates by 20 percent for shipping with the Santa Fe Railroad Company, which made manufacturing bricks from this remote location feasible. By August 1916, the construction of the new plant had begun. By November 1916, Plant Number 4 of the Los Angeles Pressed Brick Company was completed. Harvey Gardner was the plant superintendent, R. S. Stone, assistant superintendent, and John Mills, superintendent of the clay mines.

Los Angeles Pressed Brick Co. clay pit
View of a locomotive pulling a string of cars from the clay pit. From Brick and Clay Record, 1921.

Clay mined from the nearby pit was hauled in two-ton cars pulled by a gasoline motor. Bluish-white refractory clay was used for firebrick and red mottled clay for hollow tile. The clay was dumped into a Stevenson crusher with two 9-foot dry pans. The wet pans for the hand-made refractories were driven by Link-Belt chain drive and were supplied with a "Wynn" automatic unloader made by the Clearfield Machine Company. From the crusher, the material was sent by conveyor belt to the firebrick unit, where refractories, including machine and hand-made brick and blocks and special shapes were made. Initially, a Bonnot auger extruding machine and cutter were used for the machine-made firebrick, but this was later replaced by an American Clay Manufacturing Company auger extruder and a 20-brick wire cutter equipped with an automatic trip. The latter had a daily capacity of 40,000 brick. The Boyd brick press was used to repress the brick.

Los Angeles Pressed Brick Co. brickyard
View of brick plant on the left side of the kilns and hollow tile on the ground. From Brick and Clay Record, 1921.

The plant had a large hollow-tile building, 100 feet by 200 feet, which was used for hand-work and special designs of bricks. A high voltage powerline supplied 900 horse power for running the machinery. The wares were loaded onto carts, which were pulled by a gasoline motor to the tunnel dryers, designed by L. E. Rodgers. The dryers had two 10-foot fans, driven by Link-Belt chains, and used waste heat from the kilns. There were 12 oil-burning round down-draft kilns, 32, 36, and 38 feet in diameter, served by three large smokestacks. Two air compressors made by Worthington and equipped with feather values were used. Later, a Laidlaw-Dunn-Gordon air compressor was used.

Los Angeles Pressed Brick Co. gasoline motor
View of a gasoline motor used to pull carts to and from the dryer. From Brick and Clay Record, 1921.

The bricks were fired in the smaller kilns. It took 7 to 10 days for a firing cycle: 1 day to load, 3 days to burn, 2 days to cool, and 1 day for unloading the kiln. During the firing, the fuel oil was atomized with compressed air under 60 pounds pressure. Cooling was done with the aid of a fan in 48 hours. A gasoline motor hauled the firebrick to the Santa Fe railroad cars to be shipped out.

Los Angeles Pressed Brick Co. kilns
View of seven round kilns and two brick chimneys. From Brick and Clay Record, 1921.

The tile plant had two 8-foot wet pans made by the American Clay Manufacturing Company. An American No. 290 machine and Chambers cutter were used for the hollow tile. The press had a capacity of 200 tons per day. The automatic cutter was able to cut any size from 2 inches to 24 inches. The tile was burned in a 38-foot diameter kiln.

The machine shop was equipped with a lathe, shaper, drill press, power saw, and circular band saw. The testing laboratory was run by B. M. Burchfiel, a chemist. The Santa Fe Railroad Company extended a six-mile branch line to the plant from Elsinore. The plant had a capacity of 50,000 brick per day. There were 45 men working at the plant in 1917.

In 1917, three grades of firebrick were made, three star, "A-1", and probably the "A-2". Firebricks labeled with 1 or 2 without the "A" have been found and may be equivalent to the A series. Gerardo Lopez reported a cupola block designated with a "AA," which may be the same as reported as "A-2." Therefore, if this is so, "A-1" would be just an "A," indicating some level of alumina content. Another marked cupola block (shown below) reported by Lopez was one with the designation "918A," which may not be a complete mark. Could this be an example of the "A" series? Because it was found with the "AA" cupola blocks, I will attach it here until it can be determined further. The three star firebrick was made at the Los Angeles plant from 1898 to 1916 and after that at the Alberhill plant. Other grades of firebrick were made such as "XX" and "FLINT", but it is unknown if these were made previously at the original plant in Los Angeles or at the Alberhill plant or both. Not having study samples of all of their firebricks, I'm not able to describe the differences of the various grades of firebrick nor is it possible at this time to distinguish their plant of origin. Therefore, all firebricks made by this company are listed here until further research.

In July 1917, work began on filling a large order of firebrick for ship boilers for the Emergency Fleet of the First World War. By July 1918, the number of employees had increased to 175, but the company was experiencing difficulties in hiring the labor needed to fulfill the increasing orders. Most of the laborers were Mexicans whose wages ranged from $3 to $3.50 per day.

The town of Alberhill received a new post office, school, and stores, all made of clay products. The three and four room homes rented for $12 and $13.50 per month, respectively. The school building doubled as a community center. The Los Angeles Pressed Brick Company was sharing the new town with another one of its neighbors, the Alberhill Coal and Clay Company, who was supplying clay to them as well as to other companies. A 250,000-gallon reservoir nearby provided water for the town and plant.

By 1920, Plant Number 4 was turning 54,000 tons of clay into brick and tile. The hollow tile was shipped to Texas and Hawaii. At Honolulu, the hollow tile was used in the Federal Building. In Los Angeles, the hollow tile from this plant was used in the Los Angeles High School and the Edison Building. The Santa Fe railroad was a large consumer of firebrick for the fire-boxes in their locomotives. In 1925, it was announced that Plant Number 4 was to be expanded to five units for the manufacture of not only firebrick and hollow tile, but also face brick and roofing tile, for a total cost of $300,000, but it is doubtful that this was done because of the merger with Gladding, McBean and Company. A shop building, 69 feet by 150 feet, was built at a cost of $12,000. The plant produced 10 million firebrick in 1924, or about 75 percent of the firebrick used in the state. Since 1912, over 110 million firebrick was produced by this company.

In 1926, upon retirement of Howard Frost, the Gladding, McBean and Company took control of the Alberhill Plant No. 4 along with the other plants owned by the Los Angeles Pressed Brick Company. For a continuation of the history of this plant, see Gladding, McBean and Company, Alberhill.

LAPBCo Firebrick

The three-star firebrick is a high-alumina firebrick. It is buff and mostly uniform in color. The surface is smooth, crackled, with orange stains and brown spots of iron and white quartz. The edges are straight and sharp. The corners are broken, but may have been sharp when new. The faces display curved wire-cut marks. One of the faces also display a series of parallel short grooves 3/16 inch long and 1/8 inch apart. The lines of grooves are 1/4 inch apart. These may be imprints from the conveyor belt. On the marked face, there is a slightly raised face plate 8 1/8 inches long and 3 3/4 inches wide. Recessed in block letters is the company abbreviations "LAPBCo" that spans 5 5/8 inches in length and 5/8 inch in height. The lower case "o" is 1/2 inch high. There are no periods between the letters. Beneath are three stars that span 4 inches in length and each star is 7/8 inch high and 1 inch wide. A different variation has the marks inside a six-sided frog. The interior contains 5 percent subangular white quartz and 5 percent round black iron oxide, both up to 1/8 inch across, in a fine grainy buff clay body. This brick was made using the stiff-mud extruding process, wirecut, and repressed. Length 8 7/8, width 4 1/4, height 2 3/8 inches.

Los Angeles Pressed Brick Co. three star firebrick
View of the face of the LAPBCo three star firebrick.

Los Angeles Pressed Brick Co. three star firebrick
View of the face of the LAPBCo three star firebrick with a six-sided frog. Photo courtesy of Sam.

The "A1" or Number 1 firebrick has a higher alumina and lower silica content than the three star brand. It is buff with a smooth 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 faces display curved wirecut marks. The marked face has the company abbreviations "LAPBCo" in recessed block letters inside a shallow rectangular frog. Beneath is a number "1" recessed inside a shallow rectangular frog. This brick was made using the stiff-mud extruding process, wirecut, and repressed. No dimensions are available.

Los Angeles Pressed Brick Co. 1 firebrick
View of the face of the LAPBCo No. 1 firebrick. Collection of Blacky Blackwell.

The "A2" or Number 2 firebrick has a higher alumina and lower silica content than the Number 1 brand. It is buff with a smooth, crackled surface. Round brown spots of iron oxide and white quartz are noticeably absent or rare on the surface. The edges are dull and straight, but may have been sharp when new. The corners are broken, but was probably sharp when new. The faces display curved wirecut marks. The marked face has the company abbreviations "L.A.P.B co" in recessed block letters inside a shallow rectangular frog. Beneath is a number "2" recessed inside a shallow rectangular frog. This brick was made using the stiff-mud extruding process, wirecut, and repressed. No dimensions are available.

Los Angeles Pressed Brick Co. 2 firebrick
View of the face of the LAPBCo No. 2 firebrick. Collection of Blacky Blackwell.

Another variant of the LAPBCo Number 2 firebrick is shown below. It is light buff with a smooth surface. The surface has lots of pits. Edges are straight and dull. Corners are dull. The marked face contains the company abbreviations L.A.P.B.Co. on the first line and a number 2 on the second line, both are recessed. No frog or plate outline is visible. No dimensions are available.

Los Angeles Pressed Brick Co. 2 firebrick
View of the face of the LAPBCo No. 2 firebrick. Photo courtesy of Jerry Doty.

The "FLINT" is buff with a smooth crackled surface. Subangular iron-stained quartz and brown iron oxide spots are visible on the surface. Although the edges and corners are worned, they may have been sharp when new. The brick spalls easily. The sides display light orange flashing. The faces displays curved wirecut marks. The marked face has recessed block letters of the company abbreviations "LAPBCo" that spans 5 1/4 inches and are 3/4 inch in height; the "o" is 1/2 inch in height. Beneath is the brand name "FLINT" in recessed block letters inside a shallow rectangular name plate. The name spans 4 3/8 inches and stand 1 inch in height. The surrounding rectangular name plate is 4 3/4 inches long and 1 1/8 inches wide. The back face displays longitudinal dash imprints from a conveyor belt. The interior consists of 5 percent subangular quartz and round brown iron oxide spots, all less than 1/4 inch in diameter, in a granular, subangular, cream flint clay body. This brick was made using the stiff-mud extruding process, wirecut, and repressed. Length 8 7/8, width 4 1/2, height 2 1/2 inches.

Los Angeles Pressed Brick Co. Flint firebrick
View of the face of the LAPBCo FLINT firebrick. Collection of Blacky Blackwell.

The L.A.P.B.co. 36 arch firebrick is buff with smooth and slightly pitted surface. The form is excellent with straight sharp edges and sharp but worn corners. In the example shown, the left end of the brick is broken off. On the marked face are recessed markings on two lines. The first is a shallow rectangular frog with the company abbreviations "L.A.P.B.co." in block letters; the "co" being slightly lower in height. The periods are square; the period after the "B" may be faint or missing. The second line contains the number "36" inside a tight rectangular shallow frog. The number 36 indicates that this arch-shaped brick can be used to make a circle with an inside diameter of 36 inches. No dimensions are available.

marked face of the LAPBCo 36 firebrick
Photo courtesy of Samantha Hopper.

The double X brand firebrick is buff with a smooth surface. Small round brown iron oxide and subangular white quartz and yellow feldspar are visible on the surface, each with less than 5 percent in content. The marked face has recessed block letters of the company abbreviations "L.A.P.B co" inside a shallow rectangular frog. Beneath are recessed block letters "XX", with each inside a shallow square frog. This brick was made using the soft-mud process and handmade. No dimensions are available.

Los Angeles Pressed Brick Co. XX firebrick
View of the face of the LAPBCo XX firebrick. Collection of Blacky Blackwell.

The No. 1 Wedge double X brand firebrick is buff with a smooth surface. Small round brown iron oxide and subangular white quartz and yellow feldspar are visible on the surface, each with less than 5 percent in content. The marked face has recessed block letters of the company abbreviations "L.A.P.B co." inside a shallow rectangular frog. Beneath are recessed block letters "X15X", with each inside a shallow square frog. The number 15 denotes the inside diameter in inches of a circle of wedge-shaped bricks. This brick was made using the soft-mud process and handmade. Length 9, width 4 1/2, thickness 2 1/2 to 1 7/8 inches.

Los Angeles Pressed Brick Co. X15X firebrick
View of the face of the No. 1 Wedge LAPBCo / X15X firebrick. Photo courtesy of Kendal Sharp.

The Wedge double X brand firebrick is buff with a smooth surface. Small round brown iron oxide and subangular white quartz and yellow feldspar are visible in the interior. The marked face has recessed block letters of the company abbreviations "LAPBCo." inside a shallow rectangular frog. Beneath are recessed block letters "X48X", with only the number inside a shallow square frog. The number 48 denotes the inside diameter in inches of a circle of wedge-shaped bricks. This brick was made using the soft-mud process and handmade. Length 9, width 4 1/2, thickness not available.

Los Angeles Pressed Brick Co. 48 firebrick
View of the face of the Wedge LAPBCo / X48X firebrick. Photo courtesy of Steve Mount.

LAPBCo 72 firebrick is buff with orange flashing on the sides. The surface is smooth and crackled. The edges are straight and sharp. The corners are broken. The brick spalls easily. On the faces are curved wire-cut marks. The marked face has the company abbreviations "LAPBCo" recessed on the first line, that spans 5 3/8 inches and stands 3/4 inch in height; the "o" is 5/8 inch in height. On the second line is the number "72" recessed inside a shallow rectangular name plate with two round screws, that are 1/4 inch in diameter, bounding the number. The number is 1 1/2 inches in length and 1 inch in height. The interior consists of 3 percent round brown iron oxide spots up to 1/8 inch in diameter in a porous, buff, fine alumina clay body. This brick was made using the stiff mud extrusion process. Length 9, width 4, height 2 1/2 inches.

Los Angeles Pressed Brick Co. 72 firebrick
View of the face of the LAPBCo / 72 firebrick. Donated by Brian F. Smith and Associates, Archaeologists.

LAPBCo 84 firebrick is buff and has pits and brown iron oxide spots on the surface. Some of the iron oxides are blistered. The surface is smooth and crackled. The edges are straight and dull. The corners are broken from ease of spalling. On the marked face are displayed two rectangular name plates. The top plate contains the company abbreviations LAPBCO in recessed block lettering. The bottom plate contains the number 84, which is recessed and larger than the letters. No dimensions are available.

Los Angeles Pressed Brick Co. 84 firebrick
View of part of the face of the LAPBCo / 84 firebrick. Photo courtesy of Jerry Doty.

LAPBCo Special Shape Block

LAPBCo AA cupola block is a grayish buff circle block of non-standard dimensions. Contains 5 percent round black iron oxide, up to 1/4 inch in diameter, some with blister holes in a compact white and cream alumina clay body. On the marked face are four lines of text recessed in block letters that stand 3/4 inch in height. The first line contains the abbreviated company name L.A.P.B.CO. in a shallow rectangular name plate outline, which is 6 1/2 inches in length and 1 inch in height. The periods are square shaped. The second line contains "AA" in a shallow rectangular name plate outline, which is 3 inches in length and 1 inch in height, and it probably represents the double A brand of high alumina content. The letters span 1 3/4 inches and stand 3/4 inch in height. The third line has an "S," which probably indicates Special Shape. The fourth line has a "C" in a serif style letter that may stand for Cupola. It was made by hand and pressed in a mold. This is a cupola block used to form a circular wall of a cupola furnace in iron foundries. Block measures 8 inches on top, 7 1/2 inches on bottom, 4 3/4 inches in width, and is 6 inches thick.

View of the marked face of the L.A.P.B.CO./AA/S/C cupola block.
View of the marked face of the L.A.P.B.CO./AA/S/C cupola block. Photo courtesy of Gerardo Lopez.

View of the unmarked back face of the L.A.P.B.CO./AA/S/C cupola block.
View of the unmarked back face of the L.A.P.B.CO./AA/S/C cupola block. Photo courtesy of Gerardo Lopez.

A similar buff cupola block is shown below with the mark "918A" on the face and the mark may not be complete to the right side. This mark is included here only by association with the LAPBCo cupola block found above. Further verification is need to determine if it is a LAPBCo product.

View of the marked face of the 918A cupola block.
View of the marked face of the 918A cupola block, showing a part of a broken block. Photo courtesy of Gerardo Lopez.

Hollow Partition Tile

Hollow partition tile made by this company was apparently licensed by the Heath Unit Tile Company about 1920. The hollow tile is tan or buff in color and probably made from clay from Alberhill in Riverside County. The sides have deep longitudinal grooves, 7 on the longer side and 5 on the shorter side. There are three partitions. Two measures about 2 1/2 by 2 1/2 inches and the center partition measuring about a half inch by 2 1/2 inches. On one of the shorter sides is displayed the marking "HEATH UT PAT LAPBC" in recessed thin block letters. Curved wire-cut marks are seen on the ends. This hollow tile was made using the stiff-mud process, extruded, and wire-cut. Thanks goes out to Erin Cook for providing the pictures of the hollow tile.

Los Angeles Pressed Brick Co. hollow tile side
View of the side of a Los Angeles Pressed Brick Company hollow partition tile. Photo courtesy of Erin Cook.

Los Angeles Pressed Brick Co. hollow tile end
View of the end of a Los Angeles Pressed Brick Company hollow partition tile showing the three partitions. Photo courtesy of Erin Cook.

Los Angeles Pressed Brick Co. hollow tile mark
View of the marked side of a Los Angeles Pressed Brick Company hollow partition tile. Photo courtesy of Erin Cook.

References

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. 47, no. 11, 1915, p. 846.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 47, no. 12, 1915, p. 937.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 48, no. 8, 1916, p. 759.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 49, no. 11, 1916, p. 1010.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 50, no. 3, 1917, p. 261.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 50, no. 7, 1917, p. 666.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 52, no. 13, 1918, p. 1160.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 53, no. 1, 1918, p. 58.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 53, no. 2, 1918, p. 144.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 54, no. 1, 1919, p. 44.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 54, no. 5, 1919, p. 426.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 57, no. 5, 1920, p. 420.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 58, no. 5, 1921, p. 413.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 59, no. 9, 1921, p. 656-658.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 64, no. 7, 1924, p. 469.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 66, no. 8, 1925, p. 610.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 66, no. 9, 1925, p. 682.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 67, no. 12, 1925, p. 875.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 68, no. 11, 1926, p. 882.

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

Kennedy, George L., written communications, 2016.

Lopez, Gerardo, written communications, 2014.

Los Angeles Pressed Brick Company, Catalogue; Containing Useful Information in Connection with the Use of Fire Clay Brick, Los Angeles, California, 4th Series, no date.

Copyright 2010 Dan Mosier

Contact Dan Mosier at danmosier@earthlink.net.