California brick
CALIFORNIA BRICKS


Joseph Mullally

Pioneer Brick Manufacturing Company

History


Joseph Mullally
Joseph Mullally. From Lewis Publishing Co., 1889.


Joseph Mullally was a native of Cincinnati, Ohio, born December 18, 1826. In 1850, he crossed the plains and arrived in San Francisco, where he manufactured bricks during the next four years. In March 1854, Mullally moved to Los Angeles and formed a partnership with Samuel Ayers and Daniel Porter to manufacture bricks, which was known as the Pioneer Brick Manufacturing Company, located on Buena Vista Street (now Broadway), near College Street. It was probably at this time that they began branding the Mullally name on the bricks, Mullally being the head proprietor of the brick company. Apparently, the Pioneer name was not used on the brick, as evident by bricks with that name not having been found.

In 1854, the Number One Schoolhouse at Second and Spring streets and Dalton's two-story brick building at the southeast corner of Second and Main streets in Los Angeles were made of Mullally bricks. In 1855, Mullally, Porter and Ayers built the first flour mill in town for Abel Stearns and Jonathan Scott, known as the Eagle Mills, which later became the Capitol Mills. Some question whether Mullally's bricks are in the Capitol Mills building, which was later modified. I was not able to verify that the bricks in the Capitol Mills building are Mullally's because of paint-covered bricks and limited access to the building. In 1856, the Number Two Schoolhouse on Bath Street (now East Main) was built of their bricks.

In 1857, Mullally was elected to the Los Angeles City Council and served four different terms to 1883. He built a fine residence of single-story brick on the corner of Buena Vista and College streets. His estate had a large number of fruit trees. In 1857-1858, his bricks were used in the Market/Courthouse building at 156 North Spring Street. By 1858, Mullally's brickyard had reached an annual production of 2 million bricks. In 1859, 1.1 million Mullally bricks were used in the Arcadia Block on Los Angeles Street.

It was estimated that Mullally made four-fifths of all of the bricks used in Los Angeles prior to 1864. In 1874, Mullally's bricks were sent to San Pedro at the Los Angeles Harbor for the erection of the Point Fermin Lighthouse. Research in 2002 by Henrietta E. Mosley documented Mullally's bricks in the foundations of the lighthouse and its outbuildings. The face of the bricks were imprinted with J. MULLALLY / LOS ANGELES. In 2014, Point Fermin Lighthouse Volunteer Brian White kindly showed me Mullally's bricks in the basement of the lighthouse where I was able to verify and document the bricks.

In 1883, Mullally was making bricks with Thomas Goss. Their daily production was 64,800 bricks. These bricks went into the two-story brick residence for C.B. Woodhead that was erected on College Street near Mullally's residence. About 1886, Mullally moved his office to a new location at 10 1/2 West First Street, Los Angeles.

In 1887, Mullally was making 40,000 bricks per day. That year he built a new three-story brick home on Fort Street in Los Angeles. He also made the bricks for the Mullally Block, a three-story brick block at the corner of Buena Vista and College streets in Los Angeles.

E.G. Tice was in partnership with Mullally in 1888, as shown in the advertisement below. They had made over 9 million bricks that year. They moved their office to 125 West 2nd Street in 1894.

Pioneer Brick Manufacturing Co. ad
From Corran's Classified Business Directory, 1888.


The company closed in 1896 following the retirement of Mullally. Joseph Mullally died on December 5, 1906 at the age of 80 years. He was interred in the Evergreen Cemetery.

The operations of Joseph Mullally were not described by the State Bureau of Mines. But from the samples of brick donated by David Garcia and Bill Ellinger, we can learn a little about Mullally's brick manufacturing process from the 1860s to the 1880s. The clay was screened and mixed in a pugmill. Then the wet clay was put into sand molds and formed into bricks. After sufficient drying, the bricks were fired in field kilns, probably using wood or coal as fuel. Not all of Mullally's bricks were branded with his name. Research by Henrietta Mosley indicates that the brand name bricks were made as late as 1874 for the Point Fermin Lighthouse.

Mullally Brick

Common brick is pale orange, orange red, to brown, in somewhat mottled shades. Surface has a light coating of sand with white quartz and a few flashy mica flakes. Angular iron-stained white quartz, up to 1/16 inch across, subrounded granitic rock, as much as 3/4 inch across, and lumps of clay up to 1/4 inch across can be seen on the surface. Edges are irregular and dull, and the corners are rounded. Sides may be pitted with light brush marks in the longitudinal direction or transverse striations from the mold. Irregular lip 3/8 inch thick may be present around the top edges. Top face has longitudinal strike marks on a highly pitted and rough surface. Bottom face may be slightly undulating to flat. It contains a frog that is rectangular with "cored" corners, 4 inches long, 2 1/8 inches wide, and 1/8 inch deep. Inside the frog is the brand name recessed in block letters with "J. MULLALLY" on the first line and "LOS ANGELES" on the second line. The name spans 3 1/2 inches, and the letters are 1/2 inch high. Underfired bricks spall easily and when exposed to weather turns to powder. The interior is porous with 5 percent white quartz up to 1/8 inch across in a pale orange to orange red sandy clay body. This brick was made using the sand-molded, soft-mud process. Length 8, width 3 3/4, height 2 1/4 inches.

Bottom face showing brand name of a Joseph Mullally brick.
View of the bottom face showing brand name of a Joseph Mullally brick. Donated by Bill Ellinger.

View of the side of the Mullally brick.
View of the side of the Mullally brick.


Top face of the Mullally brick, showing the rough and pitted surface.
View of the top face of the Mullally brick, showing the rough and pitted surface.


View of the interior clay body of the Mullally brick.
View of the interior clay body of the Mullally brick.


View of the sides of the Mullally brick in the foundations of the Point Fermin Lighthouse, San Pedro.
View of the sides of the Mullally brick in the foundations of the Point Fermin Lighthouse, San Pedro.


View of the marked face of the Mullally brick in the foundations of the Point Fermin Lighthouse.
View of the marked face of the Mullally brick in the foundations of the Point Fermin Lighthouse.


Close-up view of the sand-coated surface of the Mullally brick in the foundations of the Point Fermin Lighthouse.
Close-up view of the sand-coated surface of the Mullally
brick in the foundations of the Point Fermin Lighthouse.


Close-up view of the side of the Mullally brick with a large granitic rock exposed on the surface.
Close-up view of the side of the Mullally brick with
a rare large granitic rock exposed on the surface.


View of the sides of the Mullally brick showing spalling on the weathered surface.
View of the sides of underfired Mullally brick showing spalling on the weathered surface.


View of the interior clay body of the Mullally brick in the foundations of the Point Fermin Lighthouse.
View of the interior clay body of the Mullally brick
in the foundations of the Point Fermin Lighthouse.


References

Corran's Classified Business Directory, Los Angeles, CA, 1888.

Ellinger, Bill, written communications, 2010.

Garcia, David, written communications, 2006.

Layne, J. Gregg, Annals of Los Angeles, Part 2, California Historical Society Quarterly, v. 13, no. 4, December 1934, p. 330.

Lewis Publishing Company, An Illustrated History of Los Angeles County, Chicago, Illinois, 1889.

Los Angeles City Directories, 1884-1896.

Los Angeles Herald, California Pioneer Dies, December 6, 1906.

Los Angeles Times, August 1, 1883.

Los Angeles Times, Bricks, July 1, 1887.

Los Angeles Times, July 1, 1887.

Los Angeles Times, The Brick Business, June 26, 1883.

Mosley, Henrietta E., Joseph Mullally, Pioneer Los Angeles Brickmaker, Journal of the International Brick Collectors Association, v. 24, no. 2, Summer 2006, p. 56-58.

Thompson and West, History of Los Angeles County, California, Oakland, 1880, p. 181.

White, Brian, Point Fermin Lighthouse volunteer, personal communications, 2014.

Copyright 2006 Dan Mosier

Contact Dan Mosier at danmosier@earthlink.net.