California brick

McKenzie and Reid Manufacturers


Dave Garcia brought the McKenzie and Reid firebrick to my attention. Dave recently found the brick in Benicia. Information on the brick itself provided the clue that it was manufactured in Benicia, Solano County, California.

J. McKenzie and M. Reid, both of Benicia, leased the old Benicia Pottery at East 5th and East G streets in Benicia from 1894 to 1897 from the owner Simon Johnston of Benicia. The Benicia Pottery was built about 1887. The San Francisco Business Directory for 1887 shows the proprietor as W.S. Ray and Company of 12-14 Market Street in San Francisco. According to the California State Gazetteer and Business Directory for 1888, John L. Ballagh was the proprietor. Little information was found about this early pottery. One brief article in the Illustrated Glass and Pottery World, August 1896, and another in the California State Mining Bureau Report 13, mentions the pottery when it was operated by McKenzie and Reid. The plant was described as being run very efficiently with a small work force. The plant was run intermittently with six employees. The main product was fire boxes for stoves of all descriptions. The firm had $5,000 worth of molds. The fire clay was shipped to the plant from Ione, Amador County, and from J.H. Hoyt's farm, located one mile north of Goodyear's Station on the Southern Pacific railroad, or 7 miles northeast of Benicia. The plant closed about 1897 and stood abandoned for a few years. It was destroyed by fire on August 3, 1900. The site is now occupied by a water treatment facility.

McKenzie and Reid Brick

The firebrick is buff and has a smooth surface. The edges and corners are dull. The marked face contains recessed block letters inside a large rectangular plate with faint borders. On the first line is "McKENZIE & REID." On the second line is a double X inside a circle followed by "MFGRS" followed again by a double X inside a circle. The third line contains "BENICIA CAL." The abbreviation for manufacturers appears to be misspelled. The interior consists of mostly a granular, cream alumina silicate, with about 8 percent blocky pinkish feldspar and grayish to brownish specks of iron oxides, some blistered, and all less than 1/4 inch across. This brick appears to be made by the soft-mud process pressed in a mold. No dimensions are available.

View of the marked face of the McKenzie and Reid firebrick.
View of the marked face of the McKenzie and Reid firebrick. Collection of David Garcia.

View of the interior clay body of the McKenzie and Reid firebrick.
View of the interior clay body of the McKenzie and Reid firebrick.


Benicia Herald, A Destructive Fire, August 4, 1900.

Bradley, W.W., Mines and Mineral Resources of Portions of California, Part 2: The Counties of Colusa, Glenn, Lake, Marin, Napa, Solano, Sonoma, Yolo, California State Mining Bureau 14th Report of the State Mineralogist, for the Biennial Period 1913-1914, 1916, p. 244-247.

Bruegmann, Robert, Benicia, Portrait of an Early California Town, James Stevenson Publishers, Fairfield, CA, 1980.

Crawford, J.J., Structural Materials, California State Mining Bureau 13th Report of the State Mineralogist, 1896, p. 612-641.

Garcia, David, pers. comm., 2014.

Illustrated Glass and Pottery World, Benicia's Pottery--California, v. 4, no. 8, August 1896, p. 26.

Niles-Rentschler Directory Co., San Francisco Business Directory 1887, in Northern Pacific Coast Directory, 1888-89, San Francisco, CA, May 1888.

Polk, R.L. & Co., California State Gazetteer and Business Directory 1888, v. 1, San Francisco, CA, 1888.

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