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San Jose Brick Company
San Jose Brick and Tile Company
In 1884, Fred Dreischmeyer, W. P. Dougherty, and Denis Corkery established the San Jose Brick
Company, which was incorporated in 1887. The business office was at the northwest
corner of San Fernando and 4th streets in San Jose. The brick plant and yard was located at
1916 Fruitdale Avenue, comprising 60 acres. The clay deposit was first worked in a small way
by Dreischmeyer as early as 1868, and so it was probably Dreischmeyer who was responsible
for organizing the San Jose Brick Company. Dreischmeyer also had previous experience working
in the brick industry when as a young teenager, he worked in the brickyards in Chicago, Illinois,
and after coming to California, he worked for four years in the Gilroy brickyard under Michael
Farrell. By 1890, Fred Dreischmeyer had left the San Jose Brick Company to manage the
Mountain View Brickyard, and his father, Henry Dreischmeyer, subsequently became superintendent of
the San Jose Brickyard. In 1892, Denis Corkery was president and Peter C. Reene was secretary
of the brick company.
View of the plant of the San Jose Brick and Tile Company, 1965. Photo courtesy of Michael Luther.
In 1919, the brick company reorganized and Frank L. Hoyt was President
and A. M. Anthony was Secretary of the company. Henry Dreischmeyer, Jr., was the plant superintendent.
The plant closed in 1927, and the company was again reorganized in 1934, changing its name to
the San Jose Brick and Tile Company, with its business office located at 372 Fruitdale Avenue,
In 1960, the Remillard-Dandini Company took over the San Jose works, but retained the name
of the company. Mrs. Juliana S. Dandini was president, Norman J. Gatzert, vice-president,
and L. E. Johnson was secretary and treasurer of the San Jose Brick and Tile Company. John Dair
was the general manager of the works. The plant closed permanently in 1968. According to Jack Dair,
then vice-president of the firm, it's demise was caused by zoning laws and the emergence of pre-fabricated
building materials. In 1970 the plant was razed and the remaining bricks were sold. The grounds were
replaced by a housing development and school.
The clay deposit on Fruitdale Avenue consisted of a bed of red-brown, plastic clay overlain
by three to five feet of soil. This clay was mined to a depth of 33 feet in an L-shaped pit
until it was exhausted in 1951. Since 1951, the company obtained crude clay from a pit on
Coyote Creek adjoining the Remillard-Dandini plant. At the original pit, a Marion electric
shovel was used to dump the clay into cars, of six-yard capacity, that were pulled by a
Plymouth gasoline locomotive 1040 feet on a cable railway to the plant.
View of the plant office of the San Jose Brick and Tile Company, 1965.
Photo courtesy of Michael Luther.
The brick plant was built in 1893. It was equipped with four Monarch soft-mud brick presses,
two Hoffman continuous kilns of 40,000 and 30,000 capacity, one 160 h.p. steam engine for
operating the plant, two 80 h.p. oil-burning boilers, and a round smoke stack. The plant
had a capacity of 20 million bricks annually. Before changing to oil, the plant initially
consumed 10,000 cord of wood for fuel. In 1888, 200 men were employed at the yard.
View of the plant of the San Jose Brick Company showing the mechanized loading of
the rectangular field kiln with yard-dried bricks. From Davis and Jennings, 1954.
The operation was described in 1930 as follows: "The clay is conveyed up over Hummar vibrating
screens and then put in the dry pan and crushed by rollers. A bucket elevator carries the material
through another Hummar screen from where the clay is conveyed by belt to the clay bin for
storage. After the clay is conveyed from the hopper and through the pug mill, it passes through
an E. M. Freeze K-B brick machine, which has a capacity of 75,000 bricks per day and is driven
by a 150-h.p. electric motor. A wire cutting machine cuts the brick in the required length.
An industrial car system is used in the drying and kiln yard. Drying in open racks requires
from seven to eight days. One round down-draft kiln (oil burner) and two Hoffman down-draft
continuous kilns are used for firing. Coal screenings are used as fuel in the latter. The
firing schedule of the continuous kilns is as follows: three days water smoking, four days
firing and ten days cooling. Fired at 2,100 F. A brick crusher is also part of the equipment
and is used to crush bricks for roofing purposes. The crushed roofing material is sold in 80-lb.
sacks. Standard clinker and cherry red bricks are manufactured. Bricks are made for only eight
months during the year, but are burnt the year round. The plant has a capacity of 18 million
bricks yearly. Fifty-five men are employed during the summer and twenty-five in the winter."
In 1954, the operation was described as follows: "Clay from the pit is delivered to an inclined field
conveyor belt leading to the dry-grinding pan. After grinding and screening, the clay is delivered
to a longitudinal storage shed for seasoning until used. The crude clay is made into bricks by
the stiff-mud process. This involves tempering the clay with water in a pug mill, making the
clay more plastic by removal of entrained air in a Freese de-airing machine, extruding the de-aired
clay through a die as a continuous ribbon, and cutting the ribbon of clay into sizes suitable for
bricks with a wire cutting machine. The newly formed bricks are removed to an open-air drying yard
where they remain for a week or longer depending upon the season of the year. Firing is done in a
sectionized Hoffman oval-shaped down-draft, continuous kiln with 16 loading doors. Oil is used
as fuel during the initial heating period. When the brick charge is hot the burners are turned off
and pulverized coal introduced through vents in the roof of the kiln. The hot brick ignites the coal,
the coal fires the brick, and the temperature reaches 1,800 to 1,900 F. The complete kiln cycle
of loading, firing, cooling, and unloading requires 15 days. A field kiln is also used during the
summer season. This kiln is about 160 feet long, 20 feet high, and 40 feet wide, with sidewalls
about 5 feet thick. This kiln is loaded with lift trucks, fired entirely with oil, and has a
kiln cycle of 10 days. Brick-making and field-firing are not done during the winter months, but
burning continues the year round in the Hoffman kiln using brick made during the dry season.
Production averages 16 million bricks per year and 40 men are employed. A brick crushing house
provides brick fragments for roofing granules."
The red common brick was the first brick made by Fred Dreischmeyer starting in 1868. These early bricks
were formed in wooden molds and fired in field kilns and they were not marked. In 1884, the San Jose
Brick Company continued to make the unmarked common brick until 1893, when they were able to purchase
four Quaker brick presses that enabled them to mark their bricks and make about 100,000 brick per day.
In January 1903, they replaced the old brick machines with four Monarch Big No. 6 brick presses, which
allowed them to increase their production to 160,000 brick per day. It is not known if the "SAN JOSE" mark
preceded the "S.J.B.Co.", but the rarity of the former mark seems to indicate that this may have been the
case. Evidently, the Monarch brick machine continued to mark the bricks with "S.J.B.Co." The "S.J.B.Co." mark has
been found on bricks made as late as 1966. Both of these marks have raised letters set inside a deep rectangular
frog with beveled sides. Not all of their bricks contain the marks, however, they usually have a blank
rectangular frog on one of the faces.
View of the Monarch brick presses of the San Jose Brick Company being delivered by rail in 1903. (Brick, 1903)
Thanks to Glory A. Laffey and Roth Leonard, III, it has been verified that the diamond S logo pressed
bricks were made and used at the San Jose brickyard. However, it is not known when they started to make
these fine pressed brick with the diamond S mark, but it is known to be used on bricks made as early as
1906 and as late as 1952. The diamond S logo was imprinted on one of the flat faces of the brick as a recessed mark.
The plant by 1930 had an extruding wire-cut machine, so we can assign the earliest made wire-cut bricks from
this plant to the San Jose Brick Company. Wire-cut bricks were continued to be made by the San Jose Brick
and Tile Company, which started in 1934. The rug brick may have been introduced by the San Jose Brick and
Tile Company sometime after 1934. These bricks were made as late as 1959, and perhaps to 1968, when the
Remillard-Dandini Company operated the plant. The triangle logo of the International Brick, Tile and
Terra Cotta Workers' Alliance on sand-molded bricks was started in 1902, but exactly when the San Jose
Brick Company began using this logo is unknown. Much research remains to be done to refine the dates
of the different types of bricks from this plant.
Bricks from the San Jose yard were shipped throughout the San
Francisco region and to points to the south. In 1887, over 23,000,000 bricks were shipped
from the yard, making the San Jose Brick Company the largest brick producer in the county and
one of the largest in the state. The Spreckles sugar plant at Spreckles near Salinas used 3 million
San Jose bricks in 1897. Thousands of homes in San Jose are made of brick from this yard.
San Jose brick can be found in many buildings in the San Francisco region.
San Jose Brick
Common bricks are orange red to red to pale red, mostly uniform in color. Visible clasts are only a few red, brown,
gray, and white, typically smooth, rounded pebbles, up to a half inch across. The pebbles are mostly metamorphic
rocks, red chert, white granite, and white quartz in varying porportions. Minor yellow flashing may be present as well
as stack indention marks on the sides. Some have a lip around top edge. Sides may show faint transverse striations,
while ends may have transverse or longitudinal striations. Side surface feels like fine sand paper, due to
the sand-struck surface. Uneven edges and rounded corners. Top face has an uneven, pitted surface with prominent
longitudinal strike marks. Some bottom faces are impressed with a rectangular frog 1/4 inch deep with beveled sides.
Inside the frog are the raised letters: "S.J.B.Co." or "SAN JOSE". Not all bricks were marked. The bottoms of unmarked
bricks will have even flat surfaces like the sides. In the "SAN JOSE" marked brick,
the frog is 6 1/4 by 1 7/8, with a 1-inch wide border. The name spans 5 1/2 inches and the letters are 1 1/8 inches
high. In the "S.J.B.Co." marked brick, the frog is 5 3/4 by 1 3/4, with 1 inch wide borders along the top and bottom
and 1 1/4-inch wide borders on each side of the frog. The name spans 4 1/4 inches and the letters are 1 inch high
(except the last letter "o" is 3/4" high). Round raised periods may or may not be present. The "S.J.B.Co." brick is
slightly thicker than the "SAN JOSE" brick by 1/8 inch, but the "SAN JOSE" brick is 1/8 inch longer. The interior clay body
contains 5 to 10 percent clasts in a porous (2 percent), orange-red sandy clay. "S.J.B.Co." has length 8 1/8, width 3 7/8,
height 2 3/4. "SAN JOSE" has length 8 1/4, width 3 7/8, height 2 5/8 inches. The soft mud process was used to make
these bricks. The typically larger size, uniform color, and round pebbles contained within each are distinguishing features
of these bricks.
View of the face of the San Jose pale red brick showing the
company name in raised letters. Donated by James Salata.
View of the face of the San Jose orange red brick showing the company
initials (SJBCo barely visible) in raised letters. Donated by Stuart Guedon.
View of the marked face of the San Jose red brick showing the company
initials (SJBCo barely visible) in raised letters.
View of the side of the San Jose red brick.
View of the top face of the San Jose red brick.
View of the end of the San Jose red brick.
View of the side of the San Jose red brick showing yellow flashing.
View of the bottom face of the San Jose pale red brick displaying a
rectangular frog with no marks (not all bricks were marked with a name).
View of the interior clay body of the San Jose common brick.
Microscopic view of the interior clay body of the San
Jose common brick (50x, field of view is 1/4 inch).
Common brick impressed with the triangle symbol on the bottom face is pale red to red, uniform
in color. Visible clasts are only a few red, brown, and gray, typically smooth, rounded pebbles, up to a half
inch across. Stack indention marks may be present on the sides. Some have a lip around top edge. Sides and ends may
show faint transverse striations. Side surface feels like fine sand paper, due to the sand-struck surface.
Uneven edges and rounded corners. Top face has an uneven, pitted surface with prominent longitudinal strike
marks. Bottom face is impressed with a triangle logo with a 1 1/2-inch base and 1 1/4-inch height. In the
corners of the triangle are what appear to be tiny letters, "B", "T", and "T", which abbreviates the International
Brick, Tile and Terra Cotta Workers' Alliance. The soft-mud process was used to make this brick. Length 7 7/8,
width 3 5/8, height 2 3/8 inches.
View of the face of a San Jose brick impressed with a triangle "BTT" logo. Donated by James Salata.
View of the side of the San Jose triangle brick.
View of the end of the San Jose triangle brick.
Common brick is a sand-struck, pale red brick with a large, beveled, rectangular frog on the bottom face, which
measures 6 3/4 inches long and 2 3/4 inches wide, and is 3/16 inch deep. The top face is heavily pitted with
longitudinal strike marks. The surface has small pits. This brick was made using the soft-mud process. Length 8 1/8,
width 4, height 2 3/8 - 2 5/8 inches.
View of the face of a San Jose brick with a large rectangular frog.
Rug brick is orange-red with transverse grooves on one side and one end. The grooves are unevenly spaced apart
from 1/16 inch to 3/16 inch, with margins of 3/8 inch. The side has 47 to 49 grooves. The ends have 17 to 19 grooves.
The other side and end are smooth. The faces display curved wire-cut marks. Interior clay body is the same as other
bricks made by this company. This brick was made using the extruded, wire-cut, stiff-mud process. Length 8 1/4,
width 3 3/4, height 2 5/8 inches.
View of the side of the San Jose rug brick.
View of the end of the San Jose rug brick.
View of the face of the San Jose rug brick.
Red pressed brick has a smooth surface with sharp and straight edges and sharp corners. The clay is very
fine and no visible clasts were present in the samples observed. Longitudinal cracks
may be present on the sides. Some sides have stack indentions. Centered on one face is
an "S" inside a diamond, recessed and oriented parallel to the long dimension of the brick. The diamond is
3 1/8 inches long and 1 3/4 inches wide. The "S" is 3/4 inch wide and 1 inch high. Above and below the "S"
are round screw imprints 3/8 inch in diameter. The example shown was made about 1952.
Length 8, width 3 3/4, height 2 3/8 inches.
View of the face of the San Jose red pressed brick displaying the "S" in diamond logo. Donated by Leonard Roth.
Buff spotted pressed brick has a smooth surface with sharp and straight edges and often dull corners. The sides may
have pits. The clay body is composed mostly of subangular cream feldspar, 2 percent clear quartz, and 15 percent
black iron, many with blister holes. The grains are mostly less than 1/16 inch across, except for the black iron
spots that range up to 1/4 inch across. Centered on one face is an "S" inside a diamond, recessed and oriented
parallel to the long dimension of the brick. The diamond is 3 1/8 inches long and 1 3/4 inches wide. The "S"
is 3/4 inch wide and 1 inch high. Length 8 1/4, width 4, height 2 3/8 inches.
View of the face of the San Jose buff spotted pressed brick displaying the "S" in diamond logo.
View of the sides of the San Jose buff spotted pressed brick at 199 Pine Street, San Francisco.
Pressed Roman Brick
Buff pressed Roman brick has a smooth surface with sharp and slightly undulating edges and sharp corners, when not broken.
Centered on one face is an "S" inside a diamond, recessed and oriented parallel to the long dimension of the brick.
The diamond is 4 inches long and 2 3/4 inches wide. The "S" is 1 1/4 inches wide and 1 3/4 inches high. The clay
body is composed mostly of subangular cream feldspar, with 10 percent clear white quartz and 10 percent black iron,
all less than 1/16 inch across. Length 12, width 4, height 1 3/4 inches.
View of the face of the San Jose buff pressed half-bat Roman brick displaying the "S" in diamond logo.
View of the side of the San Jose buff pressed half-bat Roman brick.
A Big Shipment,
Brick, v. 18, no. 5, 1903, p. 36.
Copyright © 2010 Dan Mosier
American Federation of Labor, Report of Proceedings of the Twenty-Second Annual Convention
held at New Orleans, Louisiana, November 13 to 22, 1902.
Boalich, E.S., Castello, W.O., Huguenin, Emile, Logan, C.A., and Tucker, W.B., The Clay
Industry In California, California State Mining Bureau Preliminary Report 7, 1920, p. 97.
Davis, Fenelon F., and Jennings, Charles W., Mines and Mineral Resources of Santa Clara County,
California, California State Mining Bureau, California Journal of Mines and Geology, v. 50, no. 2,
1954, p. 321-430.
Dietrich, Waldemar F., The Clay Resources and the Ceramic Industry of
California, California State Mining Bureau Bulletin 99, 1928, p. 221.
Foote, H.S., Garden of the World or Santa Clara County, California, The Lewis Publishing
Company, Chicago, 1888, p. 584.
Franke, Herbert A., Santa Clara County, California Division of Mines 26th Report of the State Mineralogist,
1930, p. 2-39.
Huguenin, E., and Castello, W.O., Santa Clara County, California State Mining Bureau 17th Report of the
State Mineralogist, 1921, p. 182-183.
Laffey, Glory Anne, Nineteenth Century Brickmaking in Santa Clara County, San Jose State University, San
Jose, California, Geography 148 Term Paper, 1980.
Luther, Michael D., written communications, 2010.
Roth, Leonard, III, written and personal communications, 2010.
San Francisco Chronicle, March 22, 1897.
San Jose City Directories, 1870-1968.
Varie, Patricia, Death of a Brickyard (May It Rest In Pieces), San Jose Mercury News, California Today,
January 4, 1970, p. 11 and 22.
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