E. J. Lavino and Company
Aerial view of the E. J. Lavino and Company plant in Newark, California. From Newark Chamber of Commerce, 1965.
In 1952, a major basic refractories manufacturer from the East decided to build a new plant in Newark, California. It
was E. J. Lavino and Company, based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The reason Lavino came to Newark was mainly to
establish its products in the Western market and be close to a major source of magnesia, which was an important
ingredient in their bricks. The Westvaco Magnesite Company (later FMC) had a plant in Newark at that time for the
purpose of extracting magnesia and other salts from seawater. Periclase was the needed ingredient for their chromite
and magnesite brick.
Map of the E. J. Lavino and Company plant in Newark, California. From Newark Chamber of Commerce, 1965.
Edward J. Lavino, the owner and namesake of the company, was born in Smyrna, Turkey, in 1852. He graduated from
the Institut Superieur de Commerce in Antwerp, Belgium, in 1871. After briefly helping his father with the Dutch East
Indies Company in Smyrna, Lavino came to the United States and established a brand new refractories company in
Philadelphia in 1887. He became a significant importer of ferromanganese ore from England until the First World War
cut off supplies. In 1915, he purchased blast furnaces to manufacture this alloy himself at Marietta, Lebanon,
Sheridan, Pennsylvania, and Reusens, Virginia. Lavino was subsequently appointed a member of the committee on ores
and ferroalloys of the American Iron and Steel Institute, which worked with the War Industries Board during the war.
He built basic refractory manufacturing plants at Plymouth Meeting and Womelsdorf, Pennsylvania. Edward Lavino
died in Philadelphia on March 4, 1930. His company continued to expand with new plants in Texas, Indiana, and
In June 1952, the large $2,500,000 plant was constructed on 44 acres of land at the corner of Wells (now Enterprise)
Avenue and Willow Street in Newark. The plant had 89,500 square feet of floor space and was equipped with the latest
machinery for crushing, grinding, pugging, and power pressing refractory material into magnesite and chrome bricks.
A long tunnel kiln fired the products to very high temperatures. High temperature cement was also manufactured and
were given different "BOND" names based on their application.
The plant was served by two railroad spurs, one of which conveyed raw material to a bottom-drop storage bin in
the rear of the plant. No material was mined on the property by this company. The chromite ore was imported from
Lavino's own chromite mines in South Africa, or purchased from other chromite mines, and periclase was supplied
by their neighbor Westvaco (later FMC) in Newark.
There is no description of the plant so I draw the process from a typical basic refractories operation. The chromite
ore was crushed to a coarse size and mixed with magnesia (periclase) and water. The mixture was put into a brick
press mold and applied a pressure of 5,000 to 15,000 pounds-per-square-inch to formed the brick. The brick
was placed on a cart to be dried and cured for several hours. Then the cart of bricks was rolled into a tunnel
kiln and fired at 2,500 to 2,900 degrees F. After firing, bricks were conveyed to the storage yard and placed
on pallets ready for shipment.
The basic refractory brick made at this plant included brand names such as KROMAG, HYMAG, LAVINO CHROME, LAVINO
MAGNESITE, LAVINO RKB, LOFERO, ONIVAL, PERIKROM, ROOFKROM, ROOFKROM UB, and UBK. These were chrome or magnesite
bricks or combinations of chrome and magnesite mixed in various proportions. Chrome ore adds stability, resistence
to basic and acid oxides, and is immune to hydration. The combination of magnesia and the metasilicate associated
with chromite ore creates forsterite, which has a high melting point (3,400 degrees F). Forsterite is the bonding
agent in the brick. It strengthens the brick and helps it to withstand the deteriorating effects of basic slag. Because
of these characteristics, chromite-magnesite bricks were used in the wall linings and floors of open hearth furnaces
and electric arc furnaces. These bricks were used mainly in the steel mills.
Plant Manager Harold Deutschman gives 10-year pins to employees. From The Argus, June 19, 1965.
At the time of the Lavino plant construction, George B. Gold was vice-president, Lauren W. Kaninen was plant
manager, and R. W. Herbst was an advisor and later was in charge of the research laboratory and quality control.
Harold P. Deutschman subsequently became the plant manager, and he was followed by Harry R. Smith. Ralph R. Rhodes
was general manager in the 1960s; he retired in 1966. Russell N. Ward was the company president from 1958 to 1967,
when he retired. He was followed by Executive Vice-President Arthur H. Bergey. In 1962, Alan J. Kitchen
joined the staff as the plant ceramic engineer. In 1963, R. E. Smith was the office manager and J. R. McNicoli,
the traffic manager. The plant employed 40 to 65 persons.
In December 1966, E. J. Lavino and Company was acquired by the International Minerals & Chemical Corporation (IMC), and
Lavino became a division of IMC's industry group. The Newark plant was allowed to continue its operations as usual.
However, the basic refractories industry was affected by the technological changes being made in the steel foundries,
where open hearth furnaces were being replaced by basic oxygen furnaces that preferred dolomite and magnesite
bricks over chromite bricks. Plus the plant was also fined for air pollution and was required to install a scrubber.
On September 9, 1971, the company announced that it was closing the Newark plant on October 8, 1971. This news
shocked the plant workers, who related, "They just put a bunch of new machinery in here in the last three years."
45 workers were laid off when the Lavino plant was abandoned.
Site of E. J. Lavino and Company plant in Newark, California.
Concrete foundation of the plant is all that remains in 2010.
The abandoned Lavino plant was sold and used by other firms until it was eventually razed and
the railroad spurs removed in the late 1990s. Today, the site remains with only the large concrete
Site of the E. J. Lavino and Company plant in Newark, California,
showing the concrete mounts that once held the brickmaking equipment.
KROMAG 45 Degree Side Skew Brick
KROMAG is a chromite and magnesite 45 degrees side skew brick. It is orange brown with round
black chromite spots ranging up to 1/4 inch across on the surface. The grains are flattened
on the smooth surface. The edges are straight and sharp, the corners are sharp, if not broken.
On the larger face, there is a mark of the brand name KROMAG recessed in block letters that
span 5 inches in length and is 7/8 inch high. I filled the lettering with white chalk to make it
more visible. The name is centered in a slightly depressed, rounded rectangular plate outline that
is 5 1/2 inches long and 1 inches high. The interior body shows about 45 percent subrounded black
chromite and 5 percent white quartz, both ranging up to 1/4 inch across, in a fine orange brown
groundmass of forsterite, periclase, and fine black chromite. This brick was made using the soft-mud
process and power pressed. This is a heavy brick. Length 9, width 4 1/4, height 2 1/2 inches.
View of the marked face of the Lavino KROMAG chromite-magnesite brick.
View of the Lavino KROMAG chromite-magnesite brick showing the 45 degree skew side.
View of the interior body of the Lavino KROMAG chromite-magnesite brick, showing coarse
black chromite, coarse white quartz, and fine orange brown forsterite-periclase mixture.
KROMAG Wedge Rotary Kiln Brick
The "115" is a chromite-magnesite wedge rotary kiln brick. Its description is similar to the
KROMAG above. On one of the larger faces, is recessed the number "115" that spans 1 5/8 inches
in length and 3/4 inch in height. I filled the lettering with white chalk to make it more visible.
The number is centered in a depressed round-rectangular plate outline that is 3 inches long and 1 inch high.
The brick was made using the soft mud process and power pressed. Length 6 1/8, width 4 1/4, height 2 7/8 to 2 1/2 inches.
View of the marked face of the Lavino 115 chromite-magnesite brick.
This is probably the Lavino PERIKROM brick. It is a gray periclase-chromite brick. The surface is
smooth, edges are straight and sharp, and corners dull. The interior consists of 85 percent subrounded,
coarse granular periclase-forsterite up to 1/4 inch across, and 15 percent subrounded black chromite
up to 1/8 inch across. The forsterite is translucent orange-brown to green mixed with mostly white
periclase. One of the faces has a large, shallow, round-rectangular frog that is 7 1/4 inches long,
2 inches high, and 1/32 inch deep, with no marks within. But another bat has the letter "D" 1/2 inch
high and recessed in the lower right of the frog, so some were apparently marked. This is a heavy
brick, weighing 13.5 pounds. This brick was made using the soft-mud process and power pressed.
Length 9 1/4, width 4 1/2, height 2 7/8 inches.
View of the face of the Lavino unmarked frog chromite-magnesite brick.
View of the interior of the periclase-chromite brick. The white mineral
is periclase, orange and green is forsterite, and black is chromite.
This is probably the Lavino HYMAG brick. It has a smooth gray surface with white spots. The edges are straight
and sharp, corners are dull. On one side is stamped with faint white letters "158-" over "WKI". The full name
could not be read because part of the brick was missing. The interior consists of 90 percent subrounded, coarse-granular,
gray to white periclase, up to 1/4 inch across, and less than 10 percent tiny black chromite grains, up to 1/16 inch
across. This brick was made using the soft-mud process and power pressed. Length is unknown, width is unknown,
height 3 1/2 inches.
View of the printed side of the Lavino periclase-chromite brick showing the faint markings.
View of the interior of the Lavino HYMAG brick. The coarse white to gray
mineral is periclase, green is forsterite, and black is chromite.
American Ceramics, Alan J. Kitchen, Bulletin, v. 41, no. 12, 1962, p. 22a.
Copyright © 2010 Dan Mosier
American Ceramics, Lavino to Build Refractories Plant, Bulletin v. 38, no. 9, 1959, p. 485.
American Ceramics, Ralph R. Rhodes, vice-president, Bulletin v. 43, no. 5, 1964, p. 415.
Argus, 10-Year Pins, June 19, 1965.
Argus, Firm Tells of Merger, January 6, 1967.
Argus, Herbst Ends Career With Lavino Co., August 4, 1966.
Argus, Lavino Company In Newark 11 Years, September 16, 1964.
Argus, Lavino Head Is Retiring, March 31, 1967.
Argus, Newark firm gets approval for anti-smog device plans, April 22, 1970.
Argus, Newark Brick Plant Closing, September 9, 1971.
Argus, Periclase, June 1, 1966.
Brick and Clay Record, Death Takes Edward J. Lavino, v. 76, no. 5, p. 336.
Graves, Jim, Brick Brands of the United States, Wichita, Kansas, 2003.
Newark Chamber of Commerce, Newark Businesses, Newark, California, 1963.
Newark Chamber of Commerce, Map of Newark, Alameda County, California, Newark, California, 1965.
Pit and Quarry, E. J. Lavino & Co. to Build $2,500,000 Refractory Plant, June 1952, p. 76.
Pit and Quarry, Calif. Magnesia Plant Closed, April 1969, p. 34.
Rigby, G.R., Basic Brick - A General Review, American Ceramics Bulletin, v. 41, no. 7, p. 456-459.
U.S. Department of Commerce, Materials Survey, Chromium, 1962.