CALIFORNIA BRICKS


Pioneer Brick and Tile Company

History

In 1920, John and Arthur Etzenhouser closed their Pioneer Brick Company plant in Visalia and moved their operations to Fresno, where a new deposit of clay was located. On September 21, 1920, the Pioneer Brick and Tile Company was incorporated with a capital stock of $500,000 in shares of $100 each. The first directors of the company were John Etzenhouser, Arthur Etzenhouser, J.W. Fewell, Daisy S. Fewell, and D.E. Perkins. John Etzenhouser was president and manager of the brick company until 1922, when P.W. Hastie was elected president of the company. Arthur Bentley was the plant superintendent.

The brickyard was on the southwest corner of Peach and California avenues in south Fresno next to the line of the Southern Pacific railroad. They mined the local valley clay on the property to a depth of five feet, using a Bay City gasoline shovel. The clay was delivered to a Potts disintegrator, from which it was carried by a belt conveyor to a pug-mill, followed by a Bonnett auger, equiped with a Freese cutter. The bricks were dried in sheds, requiring from seven to ten days.

Three open kilns were fired with oil, atomized with steam. The kilns had a capacity of 1,060,000 brick each. The firing period was five to six days, to a maximum temperature of 1,550 to 1,600 degrees F., and cooling required four to five days. One and one-half barrels of oil were required per thousand brick. The plant capacity was 40,000 bricks per day. Electric power ran all machinery.

Red common brick were manufactured and shipped locally. The plant closed in 1928 and has since been dismantled.


Pioneer Brick

The brick is red-brown to red with smooth sides. Some sides display minor crazing and faint stack depressions. The crazing parallel the longer direction of the brick. The top and bottom faces display velour texture from the cutter at a steep angle to the edges. Edges and corners may be broken or chipped. One piece of red brick displays repressed edge lines. Fine shiny mica flakes can be seen on the sides of the brick. Broken faces display a sandy clay body with abundant white and iron-stain quartz grains. Extruded, stiff-mud process. Length unknown, width 4, height 2 3/8 inches.


Side view of the Pioneer brick showing the smooth face.


One of the faces of the Pioneer brick showing velour texture.


Side view of the Pioneer brick showing repress marks on edges.


References

Brick and Clay Record, v. 57, no. 7, 1920 p. 593.

Dietrich, Waldemar F. The Clay Resources and the Ceramic Industry of California. California State Mining Bureau Bulletin 99, 1928, p. 78.

Laizure, C.M. Fresno County. California State Mining Bureau 25th Report of the State Mineralogist. Chapter 3, Mining In California, p. 301-336.

Copyright 2004 Dan Mosier

Contact Dan Mosier at danmosier@earthlink.net.