California brick
CALIFORNIA BRICKS


Modesto Repressed Brick Company

Modesto Repressed Brick Company advertisement. Modesto City Directory, 1910.
Modesto Repressed Brick Company advertisement. Modesto City Directory, 1910.

History

On June 19, 1907, the Modesto Repressed Brick Company was incorporated with a capital stock of $20,000 in Modesto, Stanislaus County, California. The directors were J. W. Craycroft, T. K. Beard, T. J. Wisecarver, B. J. Smith, and others. T. K. Beard was president and T. J. Wisecarver was secretary. J. W. Craycroft was manager and promoter of the brickyard, which occupied the land on the northeast side of the Salida Highway (now North 9th Street) and the Root Lateral Canal. This property included Blocks 442, 443, 444, and 501 in western Modesto. A spur rail line was extended to the yard from the Southern Pacific Railroad main line.

Site of the brickyard of the Modesto Repressed Brick Company on the left side of the Root Lateral Canal in Modesto.
Site of the brickyard of the Modesto Repressed Brick Company on the left side
of the Root Lateral Canal from N. 9th Street in Modesto. Dan Mosier, 2016.

Manager John Wesley Craycroft was born at Cape Giradeau, Missouri, in 1842. He graduated from Eureka College, Illinois in 1864. That year, came to San Francisco from New York, via the Isthmus of Panama, and settled at Harrisburg (now Warm Springs District of Fremont), California, to farm and raise fruit. In 1867, he married Mary Alice Valpey. During the 1870s and 1880s, he was ranching at Panoche. About 1906, he moved to Fresno to help his brother Columbus J. Craycroft in the Craycroft brickyard. In 1907, he went to Modesto to open the Modesto brickyard. He left the brick business in 1917, and remained in Modesto until his death in 1930.

The Modesto Repressed Brick Company started up operations at its yard in September 1907 when the first kiln full of bricks were fired. The detailed operations of this yard are not well known, but from newspaper advertisements and articles, we know that red common and clinker bricks were made. The red common bricks were probably molded in a brick press, as indicated by the company name. One example found on the brickyard site was a sand-molded red brick with a rectangular frog pressed into one of its faces. The frog did not have a brand name. In 1912, two bricks were tested for compression tests under water saturation. A dark brick, 8.3 x 3.8 x 2.6 inches, had a compression strength of 129,050 load pounds over 32.98 square inches, or 4,216 pounds per square inch. A light brick, 8.5 x 4.0 x 2.75 inches, had a compression strength of 89,550 load pounds over 34 square inches, or 2,634 pounds per square inch. These bricks had suitable crushing strength for use in brick buildings. It is possible that wire-cut bricks were also made here by association of bricks seen in period brick buildings in town and samples found at the brickyard site. The wire-cut bricks show curved grooves on the faces with smooth sides. Water for making bricks was obtained from the nearby Root Lateral Canal and surficial clay was taken from a shallow pit on the property. Oil was used to fire the field kiln. The yard had a capacity of 6,500 brick per day. The yard employed about 30 workers.

Modesto Repressed Brick Company advertisement. Modesto Evening News, 1913.
Modesto Repressed Brick Company advertisement. Modesto Evening News, 1913.

This yard provided most of the common building bricks used in Modesto and vicinity from 1907 to 1917. In 1913, the brick company was actively advertising in the newspaper and bidding on large building contracts in Modesto. Known examples include over 200,000 bricks used in the now demolished Tully (Elks) Building (1913) that once stood at 723 10th Street, the St. Stanislaus Catholic Church (1913) at 7th and J streets, Murray and Jones Block (1913) at 10th and J streets, 927 10th Street, and 917 J Street in Modesto. Other business buildings and homes with brick chimneys and foundations built between 1907 and 1917 may contain Modesto repressed or wire-cut brick. Craycroft advertised with the slogan, "Use Modesto Brick." He proclaimed that Modesto builders saved $2 to $8 per thousand bricks by using his bricks over the imported bricks. Architect Ralph P. Morrell endorsed the use of Modesto bricks in a published notice to contractors. Up to 1913, over ten million bricks were sold.

The brick company began to lose some of its property when it sold 10 acres to an investor in 1916. In 1920, when the yard was already abandoned, additional land was condemned for a right-of-way for the Tidewater Southern railway. With increased competition from other brickyards and a declining brick market, the brickyard closed about 1917, coinciding with Craycroft leaving the firm. The company's property tax was on the delinquent list in 1923. The land was sold and developed into housing and businesses, erasing all evidence of the brickyard.

Modesto Common Bricks

Modesto common brick is pale orange red and uniform in color. Darker colors are in the overfired clinker bricks. Form is good with straight dull edges and dull corners. Surface has a light coating of sand of subangular white quartz and shiny mica flakes. Irregular lip 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick is usually present along the top edges. Sides may expose a few clasts and pits on a flat surface. Stack indentations on the sides may be longitudinal or transverse. Top face is rough and pitted. Bottom face is flat and even. If a rectangular frog is present, it is 6 1/4 inches long, 2 inches wide, and 1/8 inch deep with beveled sides. Brand name is not present. Interior consists of a porous fine clay body containing round white clay, up to 1/4 inch in diameter, subrounded white granite, up to 3/4 inch in diameter, subangular to subrounded milky white quartz, less than 1/8 inch in diameter, subrounded red siltstone, less than 1/2 inch in diameter, and round black iron oxides, less than 1/8 inch in diameter. Total clast content is 5 percent, but may be much less. The pores in the clay body is as much as 5 percent. This brick was made using the soft-mud process and repressed. Sizes vary with length 8 3/8 - 8 1/2, width 3 7/8 - 4, height 2 3/8 - 2 3/4 inches.

View of the frogged face of the Modesto common brick.
View of the frogged face of the Modesto common brick.

View of the side of the Modesto common brick in the side wall at 917 J Street, Modesto.
View of the sides of the Modesto common brick in the side wall at 917 J Street, Modesto.

View of the interior of the Modesto common brick. White granite, 1/2 inch across, is at the lower left.
View of the interior of the Modesto common brick. White granite, 1/2 inch across, is at the lower left.

Modesto Wire-Cut Brick

This example of Modesto wire-cut brick is orange-red and uniform in color Some may display light yellowish flash marks on the sides. The form is excellent with sharp edges and corners. The sides are smooth with transverse grooves. Conveyor marks may be present on the sides, as alternating transverse short dashes or alternating long and short grooves. The faces display moderate-angled curved grooves. Interior consists of 3 percent round white clay, subangular white quartz, round blistered black iron oxides with white rims, all less than 1/8 inch in diameter, in a compact granular clay body. Lamination in the clay body was present in the example shown. This brick was made using the soft-mud process. Length 8 1/4, width 3 3/4, height 2 1/2 inches.

View of the wire-cut face of the Modesto wire-cut brick.
View of the wire-cut face of the Modesto wire-cut brick.

View of the side of the Modesto wire-cut brick, showing conveyor marks.
View of the side of the Modesto wire-cut brick, showing conveyor marks.

View of the sides and ends of the Modesto wire-cut brick at 927 Tenth Street, Modesto.
View of the sides and ends of the Modesto wire-cut brick at 927 Tenth Street, Modesto.

View of the sides of the Modesto wire-cut brick showing yellowish flash marks.
View of the sides of the Modesto wire-cut brick showing yellowish flash marks, at 927 Tenth Street, Modesto.

View of the interior clay body of the Modesto wire-cut brick.
View of the interior clay body of the Modesto wire-cut brick.

References

Brick, v. 27, no. 3, September 1907, p. 97.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 42, no. 4, 1913, p. 242.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 42, no. 12, 1913, p. 1108.

Clay Record, v. 31, July 15, 1907, p. 37.

Clay Record, v. 31, no. 5, September 14, 1907, p. 36.

Coffee Colony Sale, Modesto Evening News, February 11, 1916.

Craycroft, John, written communications, 2014.

Local Concern Is After Contracts, Modesto Evening News, June 24, 1913.

Modesto City Directory, 1910.

Modesto City Directory, 1917.

Modesto Evening News, January 31, 1913.

Modesto Evening News, June 24, 1913.

Modesto Evening News, June 27, 1913.

Modesto Evening News, June 28, 1913.

Modesto Repressed Brick Co., Modesto Evening News, August 7, 1923.

State Corporations, California Legislature, Journal of the Senate of the State of California, Report of Secretary of State, 1908, p. 92.

Substantial Increase In Pay Roll Promised By Success of Local Brick Yard: Will Attract Many New Families, Modesto Evening News, June 28, 1913.

Tidewater Files Condemnation of Right of Way Here, Modesto Evening News, November 9, 1920.

Copyright 2016 Dan Mosier

Contact Dan Mosier at danmosier@earthlink.net.