California brick
CALIFORNIA BRICKS


Oakland Paving Brick Company

History


In 1909, C. K. Holloway interested a couple of Oakland capitalists into organizing a new brick company after locating 49 acres of clay between the towns of Decoto and Niles. They were L. G. Burpee, who was vice-president and manager of the First National Bank of Oakland, and E. A. Heron who was president of the Oakland Consolidated Traction Company. On January 15, 1910, the Oakland Paving Brick Company was incorporated with a capital stock of $200,000, each share selling for a dollar. Burpee was president, Heron was vice-president, and Holloway was secretary and treasurer of the brick company. The main office was in the First National Bank Building in Oakland. This company also acquired control of the Livermore Fire Brick Company's plant in Livermore (see Livermore Fire Brick Company for further details).

Oakland Paving Brick Co. brickyard
Oakland Paving Brick Company plant near Decoto. Brick and Clay Record, 1912.

The clay deposit at Decoto was 20 feet thick resting beneath two feet of soil, which had to be removed by a horse scraper. Near the clay pit was built at the time one of the largest brick plants in California. This plant had a capacity of 250,000 bricks per day, nearly half of which included paving bricks. All types of red brick were made: paving brick, repressed face brick, both plain and molded, impervious red front brick, hard building brick, and hollow fireproofing brick.

The plant buildings were arranged in an L shape, the longer member of which was 976 feet in length and 75 feet in width. The huge sign of the company name on the side of the building was said to be 550 feet in length, with each letter being 20 feet wide and 15 feet high! The Penfield brick setting machines were used. The whole length of the building was served by a ten-ton, 62-foot traveling crane, built on wooden supports and operated by a 220-volt alternating current motor. The crane and all of the brickmaking machinery were furnished by the American Clay Machinery Company. The plant was fully electric with 2,200-volt induction motors, controlling apparatus, and transformers. The buildings were lighted by electricity.

Oakland Paving Brick Co. brickyard
View of the brick machine and rotary cutter. Brick and Clay Record, 1912.

Clay excavated from the pit was dumped into a hopper. A belt conveyor carried the clay to a 24-inch disintegrator, where the clay was thoroughly crushed. Then the clay was carried by a chain conveyor to a hopper above the pug mill, into which it was fed as needed. The clay was ground fine and mixed with water to the right consistency. From the pug mill, the mixed clay was sent to the No. 65 brick machine immediately below and extruded through a die to a No. 83 rotary cutter. The cut bricks were then carried by an off-bearing conveyor belt to four automatic represses, if they were to be made into paving bricks, otherwise the off-bearers would remove the bricks and stacked them in units of 500. All rejected brick would remain on the conveyor belt to be dropped from the end into a conveyor beneath the floor, which returned them to the pug mill. All of the machinery was driven by a line shaft, which was driven by a 250 h. p. Type AN motor.

Oakland Paving Brick Co. automatic repress and off-bearers
View of automatic represses and off-bearers stacking units of 500 brick. Brick and Clay Record, 1912.

The crane picked up the brick units and stacked them in a double continuous dryer, each dryer with a capacity of 150,000 brick. After the dryers were filled with brick and covered with wooden covers on wheels, hot air was blown through apertures on each side at the bottom. The hot air was blown in by a 240-inch fan driven by a variable speed motor, which allowed the amount of air to be regulated. The moist air was drawn from the dryer by two 84-inch disc fans driven by a 10 h. p. constant speed motor. Crude oil was used for heating. Oil was stored in a 6,000 gallon oil tank, located some distance from the plant. A duplex 14x10-inch Clayton air compressor driven by a 50 h. p. Type AN induction motor furnished the air, including that used for atomizing the oil in the burners for the kilns and hot air furnaces.

After drying for 24 hours, the brick units were removed from the dryer by the brick setting machine and stacked in the kilns, which were 625 feet in length. After the burning, the setting machine removed the bricks for cooling. The cooled bricks were hand-loaded onto cars. Any bricks broken in the dryers or kilns were ground up in a 9-foot dry pan driven by a 40 h. p. motor and delivered to the pug mill. Finished brick were shipped to market by rail, the plant being conveniently situated between the lines of the Southern Pacific and Western Pacific railroads. The railroad siding was named "PABRICO", which was an abbreviation of the paving brick company.

Oakland Paving Brick Co. dry pan
View of the 9-foot dry pan and 40 h.p. induction motor. Brick and Clay Record, 1912.

The plant started up on March 24, 1911, with 30 workers. In October 1911, G. Meyers became the plant superintendent, having transferred from the Livermore Fire Brick Works. It wasn't until December that bricks were finally shipped. As might be expected from the company name, their specialty was red paving brick. These pavers were red, vitrified brick, with the name "OAKLAND" impressed into one of the faces, cornered by four round raised lugs. Unfortunately, the pavers failed as good street pavers, so the company had to unload them as sewer or building bricks. This was unfortunate because paving bricks were being shipped to San Francisco and Oakland from as far away as Los Angeles and Seattle due to the lack of local supply of paving bricks. By April 1912, the pavers were no longer being made and red common brick became the main product at the plant. Unable to sustain itself on common brick, the plant shut down by the end of April.

In July 1912, the company brought in Mr. Penfield of the American Clay Machinery Company to help make alterations at the plant so that it could operate profitably. There were plans to retool the plant to make face brick, ornamental brick, enameled brick, and terra cotta. Although the plant was remodeled and equipped with new machinery, it never reopened. The plant was sold a year later to W. S. Dickey Clay Manufacturing Company of Kansas City. This firm reopened the plant under the name of the California Brick Company (see
California Brick Company for further details).

Oakland Paving Brick Co. bricks


Oakland Paving Brick

Paver is mottled, dark red to orange red, with numerous pits and cracks. Minor white and red clasts up to 1/4-inch across can be seen on the surface of some brick. Some show curved wire-cut marks across the faces. Top and bottom edges around the face has a camphored finish showing the typical repress lines around the top and bottom edges of the faces. The edges around the sides and ends are rounded. This brick is heavy, weighing 6 lbs. On one of the faces is impressed in block letters "OAKLAND", the letters are 1 1/4-inch high and span 6 3/8 inches in length. Near the four corners around the brand name are raised round lugs, 3/4-inch in diameter. Length 7 7/8 - 8 1/2, width 3 3/4 - 4, height 2 1/2 - 2 3/4 inches.

Oakland Paving Brick Co. paving bricks
View of the marked face of the Oakland paving brick.

References

Brick and Clay Record, v. 38, no. 5, March 1, 1911, p. 303.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 38, no. 10, May 15, 1911, p. 512.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 38, no. 12, June 15, 1911.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 39, no. 7, Oct. 1, 1911, p. 265.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 40, no. 1, Jan. 1, 1912, p. 50.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 40, no. 4, Feb. 15, 1912, p. 200.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 40, no. 7, April 1, 1912, p. 356.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 40, no. 8, April 15, 1912, p. 394.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 41, no. 1, July 1, 1912, p. 38.

Brick and Clay Record, v. 41, no. 5, Sept. 1, 1912, p. 198.

Livermore Herald, Nov. 26, 1910, p. 4.

Metz, O.T., An Electrically-Driven Coast Plant, Brick and Clay Record, v. 41, no. 2, July 15, 1912, p. 41-43.
Oakland City Directories, 1910-1914.

Oakland Paving Brick Company Stock Certificate, Sept. 20, 1910.

San Francisco City Directories, 1910-1914.

Copyright 2006 Dan Mosier

Contact Dan Mosier at danmosier@earthlink.net.