Pomona Brick Company
Two brothers from Canada, William W. and James H. McMullen, immigrated
to the U.S. in the 1890s and became citizens in 1899. They went to
Pomoma, California, to establish a brick manufacturing firm known as the
Pomona Brick Company. They found the alluvial flood-plain deposit
suitable for making common brick. The first clay pit was opened on 8
acres of land at the southwest corner of W. 9th St. and S. Buena Vista
Avenue, now covered with homes. Here blue clay, 5 feet thick,
was mined until the clay was exhausted in 1943. A new clay pit, called
the South Pit, was opened in 1944, on 11 acres of land about a half mile
to the south on Phillip Blvd. Here the clay deposit was 6 to 15 feet thick overlying
decomposed granite. The South Pit was 700 feet long by 700 feet wide and
averaged about 9 feet deep. The clay was mined using a gasoline shovel
and it was hauled by trucks to the plant.
The Pomona brick plant stood at the southwest corner of W. 9th St. and
Buena Vista Avenue, where a school is located today. Up until 1943, the
plant produced common brick using the soft-mud process. After that, the
stiff-mud process was used. The raw clay was crushed in a J. C. Steele
disintegrator, screened, and put through the dry pan crusher and stored
in a bin. The processed clay was then fed into a J. C. Steele No. 54
combined brick machine and formed into bricks. The bricks were sun dried
before placed in field kilns for firing. This plant had a capacity of
30,000 bricks per day and employed 20 workers. It normally operated for
nine months out of the year, except for emergency demands.
Common and Commercial Rancho bricks and hollow building tile were
produced by the Pomona Brick Company. There are many buildings still
standing in the Pomona area made of Pomona brick. Prominent examples
include the Pilgram Congregational Church and the YMCA building, both on
Garey Avenue. The bricks were used in nearby towns, such as the
Claremont High School, Claremont. Pomona bricks were shipped as far as
San Diego for use in a Presbyterian Church.
In 1911, James McMullen passed away. William McMullen continued to run
the brick company until about 1926, when he partnered up with Edward G.
and Herman F. Stahlman, two long-time employees of the brick company and
natives of Illinois. William McMullen retired in 1938 and passed away in
1950. The plant shut down briefly in 1941 and 1942 during the war. It
reopened in 1943 with Seeonde Bernard Strona, native of Rhode Island, as
manager of the brick company. After exhausting the clay on the property,
the pits were filled. The company received clay from the Prado Dam area
by trucks. In 1965, with housing encroaching near the brickyard, the
neighbors sent a petition to the city complaining about the noise, dust,
and appearance of the yard and wanted the yard removed. The Pomona Brick
Company closed the yard shortly afterwards. Bernard Strona passed away
Common brick is pale red to red brown, mostly uniform in color. The surface
is sand-struck and frequently has irregular clumps of clay stuck on
the surface, which may be a distinguishing feature of this brick.
The sides on some display minor cracks, stack indentations, and transverse
grooves. Edges are irregular and range from nearly sharp to dull. Corners
are dull. The bottom face shows minor pits. The top face is rough, pitted,
with longitudinal strike marks. Interior clay body is red, porous, and
contains 15 percent subangular to subround white and yellow clay or
feldspar and black iron up to 1/2 inch across. This brick was made in
1911. Soft-mud process. Length 8 - 8 1/2, width 3 7/8 - 4,
height 2 3/8 - 2 1/2.
View of the side of the Pomona common brick in the Pilgrim Congregational Church.
View of the side of the Pomona common brick, showing the clay clumps attached to the side.
View of the interior of the Pomona common brick.
View of the top face of the Pomona common brick.
View of the interior clay body of the Pomona common brick.
Microscopic view of the interior clay body of the
Pomona common brick (50x, field of view is 1/4 inch).
Architect and Engineers, August 1911, p. 119.
Copyright © 2007 Dan Mosier
Brick and Clay Record, v. 38, no. 1, 1911, p. 84.
Brick and Clay Record, v. 39, no. 6, 1911, p. 238.
Brick and Clay Record, v. 41, no. 9, 1912, p. 364.
California Death Index, S. Bernard Strona.
California Death Index, William Walter McMullin.
California Division of Mines. Mineral commodities in 1952 and 1953. California Journal of Mines and Geology, v. 51,
no. 4, 1955, p. 353.
Federal Census Records 1910.
Federal Census Records 1930.
Gay, T.E., and Hoffman, S.R. Mines and Mineral Resources of Los Angeles County,
California. California State Mining Bureau, California Journal of Mines and Geology, v. 50, no. 3-4,
1954, p. 467-709 (508-517).
Suddenly Undesirable, Neighbors Petition to Remove 90-Year-Old Pomona Brickyard. Los Angeles Times, 26 December 1965 (sent
from Josh Higgins).
Pomona City Directories, 1907-1948.
Symons, Henry H. California Mineral Production and Directory of Mineral Producers For 1938. California
State Mining Bureau Bulletin 117, 1939, p. 147.
Symons, Henry H. California Mineral Production and Directory of Producers For 1942.
California State Mining Bureau Bulletin 126, 1943, p. 153.
Symons, Henry H. California Mineral Production and Directory of Producers For 1943.
California State Mining Bureau Bulletin 128, 1944, p. 157.