California brick
CALIFORNIA BRICKS


Stockton Fire Brick Company, Livermore Plant
Gladding, McBean & Company, Livermore Plant

History


In 1937, the Stockton Fire Brick Company purchased the closed plant and property of the
Livermore Fire Brick Works after it was abandoned by W. S. Dickey Clay Manufacturing Company of Kansas City, Missouri. This brick plant stood on Stanley Blvd. at Railroad Avenue, between the Southern Pacific and Western Pacific railroads on the west side of Livermore. The Stockton firm used the Livermore plant to supplement the manufacturing of its own line of firebrick at the Pittsburg plant in Contra Costa County. Fire clay was shipped by rail from Amador and Placer counties, where the company either owned or leased clay pits. The process and equipment used were the same as used by the former Dickey Clay Company. Although I have not been able to verify all of their bricks yet, it is possible that the Stockton Fire Brick Company made the STOCKTON, CARNEGIE, and GASCO brand firebricks at the Livermore plant. This plant produced only firebrick.

On December 11, 1943, the Stockton Fire Brick Company was acquired by the Gladding, McBean & Company of Lincoln, California. The Gladding, McBean & Company continued the production line of firebrick at the Livermore plant to supplement the Pittsburg plant in Contra Costa County, which it also had acquired from the Stockton firm. The fire clay was shipped by rail from Placer and Amador counties, where the company owned some clay pits. The MANTEL brand was among the firebricks made by this company at the Livermore plant. The STAR firebrick may be another. Rejected MANTEL and GASCO firebricks were found at the Livermore plant site.

The operation of this plant was described in a 1950 California Journal of Mines report as follows: Buff colored fire clay from company owned deposits at Lincoln, Placer County, was shipped in and unloaded from a siding directly into the storage sheds. The raw clay was fed to the dry-pan grinding machines by means of a mobile hopper and short conveyor belt. After grinding, the clay passed by bucket elevator to the screens and then to a Bonnet single-screw auger where water was added. The mix was extruded as three narrow ribbons of stiff mud. An automatic wire-cutting machine simultaneously cut each ribbon into four brick units which were carried by belt conveyor to one of two stamping machines. Here, the company name and brick type were imprinted on each unit. The units were hand-loaded to narrow-gauge cars, hand-trammed a short distance, and the cars were transferred to standard-gauge carriages. The carriages were hand-trammed to the drying tunnels which were equipped with two sets of narrow-gauge tracks to accommodate the cars. There were 10 drying tunnels in parallel, each about 70 feet in length. After drying, the bricks were loaded into the kilns for firing. There were six round, 10-burner, gas-fired, down-draft kilns, about 26 feet in diameter, serviced by two rectangular stacks about 50 feet high. Two smaller muffle kilns, about 15 feet in diameter, were serviced by one 50-foot stack. Special joints and fittings were hand-molded.

Charles Perry
Charles Perry was the last superintendent at the
Livermore plant for Gladding, McBean & Company.
From the Livermore News, 1948

In May 1948, the company opened a new shale pit for red-burning clay near the town of Altamont, northeast of Livermore. John Pedro was in charge with a crew of eight miners, a power shovel, Cat tractor, and trucks. A railroad spur was laid to the pit and a loading ramp was built at the railroad siding. The shale was shipped to both the Livermore and Lincoln plants of the company. The Livermore plant installed a $10,000 pug mill for mixing and extruding the red clay. From this clay, they made Roman decorative brick, and these were used on building and home facings. The company also had planned to make red face brick, drain and flue linings, and roof tiles, but it is unlikely that these products were made at the Livermore plant before it closed.

From 1946 to 1948, William Zinszer was superintendent of the Livermore plant. He was succeeded by Charles Perry from July 1948 until the plant closed on February 28, 1949. The brick plant was razed and the abandoned property stood vacant for four decades before the plant site was finally converted into the Brickyard Shopping Center, anchored by the K-Mart store. Today, a small plaque on a brick monument, which displays some of the old Livermore bricks, stands as a reminder of the former Livermore brick plant.

Livermore brickyard plaque

Bricks of the Stockton Fire Brick Company and Gladding, McBean & Company

GASCO firebrick made at the Livemore plant is dark salmon with smooth surfaces that show crazing, small cracks, and minor blister pits. The salmon clay body appears to be a distinguishing feature of the bricks made at this plant, compared to the yellow clay body made at the Stockton plant and white clay body made at the Pittsburg plant. A grog of angular white quartz, up to 1/4 inch across, constitutes about 10 percent of the volume. On one face is imprinted the brand name GASCO in recessed block letters that span a length of 3 5/8 inches and is 11/16 inch high. The name is on a rounded rectangular plate 6 1/8 inches long and 7/8 inch high. Plate and name are centered on the face of the brick. Extruded, wire-cut, stiff-mud, repressed process. Manufactured from 1937 to 1949 at the Livermore plant. Length 8 1/4, width 4 1/2, height 2 1/2 inches.

Stockton Fire Brick Co. GASCO firebrick
Face of the Stockton firebrick imprinted with the GASCO brand name.


MANTEL BRICK firebrick made at the Livermore plant is grayish white with a fine clay body containing subangular white quartz grog, up to 1/8 inch across. The quartz constitutes about 10 percent of the volume. The surface is smooth with minor crazing. Edges are straight and the corners are worn or broken. The face displays cured wire-cut grooves and pits up to 1/4 inch across. The brand name is imprinted on one of the faces on two lines in recessed block letters. The top line is MANTEL, which spans a length of 3 3/16 inches and is 1/2 inch high. The bottom line is BRICK, which spans a length of 2 1/8 inches and is 1/2 inch high. Both names are on a rounded rectangular name plate 7 1/8 inches long and 5/8 inch high. Extruded, wire-cut, stiff- mud process. Manufactured from 1943 to 1949 at the Livermore plant by Gladding, McBean & Company. Length 7 7/8 - 8 1/2, width 3 3/4 - 4, height 2 1/2 - 2 3/4 inches.

Gladding, McBean and Co. Mantel firebrick
Face of the Gladding, McBean & Company firebrick imprinted with the MANTEL brand name.


STAR firebrick is believed to be made at the Livermore plant based on processing marks on the brick. The color is gray and mostly uniform. Strong curved wire-cut marks are displayed on the faces. The surfaces has minor crackles and pits. The form is straight with sharp edges and corners when new. On one of the faces is marked in recessed block letters "STAR" centered inside a shallow rounded rectangular frog, which is the outline of the name plate. Quartz grog up to 1/4 inch across is visible on the surface. The interior contains large subangular quartz and black iron oxide up to 1/2 inch across and about 10 percent in volume in a white clay body. This brick was made using the stiff-mud process, extruded, wire-cut, and repressed. Thanks goes out to Evelyn Rose who found this sample in San Francisco. Length 9, width 4 1/4, height 2 5/8 inches.

Gladding, McBean and Co. Star firebrick
View of the marked face of the Gladding, McBean & Company STAR firebrick. Photo courtesy of Evelyn Rose.


Gladding, McBean and Co. Star firebrick
View of the side of the Gladding, McBean & Company STAR firebrick. Photo courtesy of Evelyn Rose.


Gladding, McBean and Co. Star firebrick interior
View of the interior of the Gladding, McBean & Company STAR firebrick. Photo courtesy of Evelyn Rose.


References

Davis, F.F., Mines and Mineral Resources of Alameda County, California, California State Mining Bureau, v. 46, no. 2, 1950, p. 290-291.

Dietrich, Waldemar F., The Clay Resources and the Ceramic Industry of California, California State Mining Bureau Bulletin 99, 1928, p. 209-210.

Livermore News, Altamont Shale Mine Open, May 20, 1948.

Livermore News, July 15, 1948.

Mosier, Dan L., Brick Making in the Livermore Valley, Livermore Heritage Guild Chapters in Livermore History, Feb. 1983.

Copyright 2007 Dan Mosier

Contact Dan Mosier at danmosier@earthlink.net.