CALIFORNIA BRICKS


Pomona Brick Company

History

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.

Advertisement of the Pomona Brick Company. 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 in 1982.

Pomona Brick

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 sides of the Pomona common brick.
View of the side of the Pomona common brick in the Pilgrim Congregational Church.

View of the sides of the Pomona common brick.
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 interior of the Pomona common brick.

View of the top face 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.
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).
Microscopic view of the interior clay body of the
Pomona common brick (50x, field of view is 1/4 inch).


References

Architect and Engineers, August 1911, p. 119.

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.

Copyright 2007 Dan Mosier

Contact Dan Mosier at danmosier@earthlink.net.