California brick

Charles Morris


Charles Morris was an early brickmaker in San Francisco, California. He was in San Francisco briefly from 1856 to 1859. In 1856, he had a brickyard at the corner of Bryant and Essex (now Rincon Alley) streets. This yard was on the southeast side of a low hill made of Mesozoic sedimentary rocks overlain by yellow clay and sand.

Morris hired ten workers at his brickyard. The yellow clay was dug and thrown directly into a pug mill, which was powered by a horse. When sufficiently mixed with water and sand, the material was thrown into wooden molds to form bricks. After drying in the sun, the bricks were fired in two large rectangular field kilns, each holding about 200,000 bricks. It required 70 cords of wood to fire each kiln. After firing, the bricks were ready for the market, where they sold at $9 to $10.50 per thousand bricks. These were red common bricks in the crudest form.

Morris made about 400,000 bricks at this brickyard in 1856. These bricks were used locally and it is doubtful that any buildings containing them have survived up to the present. The sample shown below is from a partially buried remnant foundation at the brickyard site. In 1857, Morris moved to a new location at Brannan and 3rd streets in San Francisco and probably made the same style of brick from similar materials. He closed that yard in 1859 and left San Francisco to parts unknown.

Foundation at the Morris brickyard
View of part of a remnant brick foundation at the Morris brickyard site.

Morris Brick

The common brick is orange-red and mottled with patches of yellow, orange, and red. The brick has an uneven form with undulating or curved sides, some badly warped. The edges and corners are dull. Some of the bricks are underfired and spalls easily, while others are partly burnt to dark gray or black. The surface of the brick is coated with sand and is lumpy, caused by the large clasts that protrude the surface of the brick. The sides have stack indentations, which are quite deep, indicating over-stacked bricks, which contributed to deformation of the form. The bottom face has a smooth but lumpy surface. The top face is heavily pitted with no discernable strike direction on the samples seen and a thin, 1/8 inch thick, irregular lip around the top edges. The interior contains 15 percent subangular white quartz, subangular red chert, subrounded gray sandstone, all up to 5/8 inch across, in a sandy, porous, orange-red clay body. This brick was made using the soft mud process. Length 8 1/4, width 3 1/2 - 4, height 2 1/2 inches.

Morris brick
View of the side of the Morris brick.

Morris brick
View of the bottom face of the Morris brick.

Morris brick
View of the top face of the Morris brick, partly covered by white mortar.

Morris brick interior
View of the interior of the Morris brick.


Daily Alta California, Manufacture of Bricks, June 13, 1857.

Federal Census Records, 1860.

San Francisco Directories, 1856-1860.

Copyright 2010 Dan Mosier

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