California brick
CALIFORNIA BRICKS


Sacramento Brick Company, Riverside Plant

Sacramento Transportation Company

History


Sacramento Transportation Co. brick ad
From Architect and Engineer, 1913.


In the late 1870s, the Sacramento Transportation Company, which ran a steamboat business on the Sacramento River, decided to enter the brick manufacturing business to ship Sacramento brick to the San Francisco market. Two sites on the east bank of the Sacramento River had good brick-making clay deposits. At Riverside, 5 miles south of Sacramento, was found a 12-foot thick section of dark, loamy soil, underlain by micaeous gray clay and river sand extending a quarter mile from the river. At Freeport, 9 miles south of Sacramento, was a dark, loamy, micaceous clay extending for a mile from the river. In 1879, the transportation company formed the Sacramento Brick Company to operate these clay deposits. The company office was located at Front and N streets, Sacramento.


Sacramento Brick Co. brickyard
View of the Sacramento Brick Company's Riverside plant on the Sacramento River. From Root, 1925.


The Riverside grounds occupied 182 acres. A Marion steam shovel, with a 1 1/2 cu. ft. bucket, along with a dragline scraper was used to dredge the material from the pit, which was 16 feet deep. In 1955, a 1 1/2 yard Bucyrus Erie dragline was used to mine and stockpile the clay. Initially a steam locomotive was used to convey the four-ton dump cars from the pit to the plant a distance of about one quarter mile. There were two locomotive and 32 dump cars. By 1928, gasoline dinkey locomotives were used for haulage.

The material was put into the hoppers and elevated to the pug mill where it was tempered with water and thoroughly mixed. From the pug mill, the clay passed automatically to the brick machines, where it was molded into bricks and sanded by machinery. In 1890, there were five Quaker brick machines, with a pug mill attached to each, and each having a capacity of 30,000 brick per day. In 1908, these were replaced by five Monarch soft-mud machines. In 1928, the bricks were dusted with red ground grog from an outside grog grinder and storage bin. The excess clay from the molds was conveyed by endless belts to the hoppers of the pug mills. By 1955, the bricks were made by an extruding machine and cut by a revolving wire cutter.

Sacramento Transportation Co. brickyard
View of the Sacramento Transportation Company brickyard. From Brick and Clay Record, 1908.



The brick machines were connected with a line of shafting which was run by a 130 h.p. engine, later replaced by a 250 h.p. Corliss steam engine. In the 1890s, the wet bricks were placed on pallets, six bricks to a pallet, and six pallets at a time were wheeled to the drying yard, where they were stacked in tiers ten pallets high. The bricks air-dried for six days. This was later replaced by a wire cableway that transported the wet bricks to steam-rack dryers, where they were dried in about 18 hours.

The bricks were initially fired in two continuous, 16-compartment, Hoffman kilns, which were oval shaped, 250 feet long, 60 feet wide, and 12 feet high. Each had a capacity of 50,000 brick per day. These kilns had 16 doorways by which the bricks were taken in and out. The smoke chambers and flues were connected with a smokestack about 130 feet high. Coal was used for fuel. By the late 1920s, nine open-draft field kilns were used to fire the bricks for seven days at temperatures of 1700 to 1750 degrees F. Each kiln had a capacity of 400,000 to 500,000 bricks, and oil was used for fuel.

The finished brick were loaded onto company barges, each with a capacity of 200,000 brick, and shipped to Sacramento, San Francisco, and all points in between. The company shipped the bricks to their yard at Third and Berry streets in San Francisco from 1887 to 1929. In 1890, 17 million bricks per year were shipped, but this rate declined over the years. In 1890, the yard employed 160 men from April to November, and about 40 during the remainder of the year. Most of the laborers were Chinese. Employment dropped to 35 to 50 by 1955. In the 1890s, James O'Neil was superintendent of the Riverside plant. In 1917, H. Rolff was superintendent. This yard was the largest producer of common bricks in Sacramento. Some of the buildings that used Sacramento brick include the Phelan Building, St. Francis Hotel Annex, and Spreckles Sugar Refinery in San Francisco. The Riverside plant closed in 1969.

Sacramento Brick Company Brick

Sand-Molded Common Brick


Common brick is pale brownish red, uniform in color. Surface is sand-coated and undulates, with uneven edges, rounded to dull corners. Pits are rare on the sides and ends and lack any marks. Top face is highly pitted with longitudinal strike marks and stack indentations. Bottom face is flat and centered with a rounded rectangular frog 5 inches long, 1 1/2 inches wide, and 1/8 inch deep. Recessed inside the frog is the company abbreviation "S.B.Co." followed by the logo for the Common Brick Manufacturers Association, a circle with a cross inside. The name spans 2 1/2 inches and is 3/4 inch high, except for the little "o" which is 3/8 inch high. The logo is 1 1/4 inches wide and 1 1/16 inches high. The interior contains 15 percent subrounded altered cream granitic rocks up to 3/4 inch across in a fine sandy red clay body. This brick was made using the sand-molded, soft-mud process, indicating a brick made prior to 1955. Length 7 5/8, width 4 1/2, height 2 3/8 inches.

Sacramento Brick Co. common brick
Bottom face view of a Sacramento brick showing the brand name in a frog. Donated by Roy N. Anaclerio, Jr.

Sacramento Brick Co. common brick
Side view of a Sacramento brick.


Sacramento Brick Co. common brick
Top face view of a Sacramento brick.

Sacramento Brick Co. common brick
End view of a Sacramento brick.


Extruded, Wire-Cut Common Brick


Wire-cut brick is dull brownish red, with a uniform color. Surface is smooth and flat with straight, sharp edges and rounded to sharp corners. Longitudinal and transverse cracks and pits up to 1/4 inch across are on the sides. Sides show faint longitudinal striations and longitudinal stack indentations. Ends show transverse striations, indicating end cuts. Top face is smooth and flat with longitudinal grooves and striations. Bottom face is flat with some pits and cracks. Bottom face is centered with a rounded rectangular frog 5 3/8 inches long, 1 1/4 inches wide, and 1/8 inch deep. Inside the frog is the recessed abbreviated company name "S.B.Co." followed by the logo for the Common Brick Manufacturers Association, a circle with a cross inside. The name spans 2 3/4 inches and is 1/2 inch high, except for the little "o" which is 3/8 inch high. The logo is 1 1/4 inches wide and 1 inch high. Extruded, wire-cut, stiff-mud process, indicating a brick made since 1955 and is larger in size than previously made bricks. Length 8 1/8, width 3 1/4, height 2 1/2 inches.

Sacramento Brick Co. wire-cut brick
Bottom face view of a Sacramento brick showing the brand name in a frog. Donated by Roy N. Anaclerio, Jr.

Sacramento Brick Co. wire-cut brick
Side view of a Sacramento brick.


Sacramento Brick Co. wire-cut brick
Top face view of a Sacramento brick.


Sacramento Brick Co. wire-cut brick
End view of a Sacramento brick.


References

Architect and Engineer, December 1913, p. 160.

Brick and Clay Record, 1908, v. 28, no. 3, p. 189.

Carlson, Denton W., Mines and Mineral Resources of Sacramento County, California, California Journal of Mines and Geology, v. 51, no. 2, 1955, p. 131.

Crawford, J.J., Sacramento County, California State Mining Bureau 13th Report of the State Mineralogist, for the two years ending September 15, 1896, 1896, p. 617.

Forstner, William, Hopkins, T.C., Naramore, C., and Eddy, L.H., Structural and Industrial Materials of California, California State Mining Bureau Bulletin 38, 1906, p. 253.

Hamilton, Fletcher, Sacramento County, California State Mining Bureau 15th Report of the State Mineralogist, for the Biennial Period 1915-1916, 1917, p. 403-404.

Irelan, William, Jr., Sacramento County, California State Mining Bureau 10th Annual Report of the State Mineralogist, 1890, p. 506-508.

Old-Time California Works Modernized, Brick and Clay Record, 1908, v. 29, no. 4, p. 433.

Root, Lloyd L., Mines and Mineral Resources of Sacramento, Monterey and Orange Counties, California State Mining Bureau Report 21, no. 1, 1925, p. 9.

Sacramento City Directories, 1902-1967.

San Francisco City Directories, 1887-1929.

Copyright 2006 Dan Mosier

Contact Dan Mosier at danmosier@earthlink.net.