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San Jose Brick Company

San Jose Brick and Tile Company

History


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.

San Jose Brick and Tile Co. brickyard
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, San Jose.

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.

San Jose Brick and Tile Co. brickyard
View of the plant office of the San Jose Brick and Tile Company, 1965.
Photo courtesy of Michael Luther.

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.

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.

San Jose Brick and Tile Co. brickyard
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 Monarch brick presses that enabled them to mark their bricks. It is not known if the "SAN JOSE" mark preceded the "SJBCo", but the rarity of the former mark seems to indicate that this may have been the case. The "SJBCo" 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. 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 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 and chert. 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 recessed letters: "SJBCo" 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 "SJBCo" 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). The "SJBCo" brick is slightly thicker than the "SAN JOSE" brick by 1/8 inch, but the "SAN JOSE" brick is 1/8 inch longer. The typically larger size, uniform color, and round pebbles contained within each are distinguishing features of these bricks. "SJCBo" 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.

San Jose Brick and Tile Co. common brick marked face
View of the face of the San Jose pale red brick showing the
company name in raised letters. Donated by James Salata.

San Jose Brick and Tile Co. common brick marked face
View of the face of the San Jose pale red brick showing the company
initials (SJBCo barely visible) in raised letters. Donated by Stuart Guedon.


San Jose Brick and Tile Co. common brick marked face
View of the face of the San Jose red brick showing the company
initials (SJBCo barely visible) in raised letters.


San Jose Brick and Tile Co. common brick
View of the side of the San Jose red brick.


San Jose Brick and Tile Co. common brick
View of the end of the San Jose red brick.


San Jose Brick and Tile Co. common brick
View of the top face of the San Jose red brick.


San Jose Brick and Tile Co. common brick
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.
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).
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.

San Jose Brick and Tile Co. common brick with triangle BTT logo
View of the face of a San Jose brick impressed with a triangle "BTT" logo. Donated by James Salata.


San Jose Brick and Tile Co. common brick
View of the side of the San Jose triangle brick.


San Jose Brick and Tile Co. common brick
View of the end of the San Jose triangle brick.


Common brick is a sand-struck, orange-red brick with a beveled, round-rectangular frog on the bottom face, which measures 5 3/4 inches long and 1 3/4 inches wide, and is 1/8 to 1/4 inch deep. The top face is pitted with longitudinal strike marks. The surface has small pits. This brick was made using the soft-mud process. Length 8 1/4, width 3 3/4, height 2 3/8 - 2 3/4 inches.

San Jose Brick and Tile Co. common brick with rounded frog
View of the face of a San Jose brick with a rounded rectangular frog.


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 3/8 inches.

San Jose Brick and Tile Co. common brick with large rectangular frog
View of the face of a San Jose brick with a large rectangular frog.


Rug Brick

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. Extruded, wire-cut, stiff-mud process. Length 8 1/4, width 3 3/4, height 2 5/8 inches.

San Jose Brick and Tile Co. rug brick
View of the end of the San Jose triangle brick.

San Jose Brick and Tile Co. rug brick
View of the end of the San Jose triangle brick.


Pressed 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.

San Jose Brick and Tile Co. red pressed brick
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.

San Jose Brick and Tile Co. buff pressed brick
View of the face of the San Jose buff spotted pressed brick displaying the "S" in diamond logo.


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.

San Jose Brick and Tile Co. red pressed Roman brick
View of the face of the San Jose buff pressed half-bat Roman brick displaying the "S" in diamond logo.


San Jose Brick and Tile Co. buff pressed Roman brick
View of the side of the San Jose buff pressed half-bat Roman brick.


Ornamental Brick

Ornamental brick is orange-red, with smooth surfaces. There are two, deep, inversed pyramid-shaped frogs on one of the faces. The other face has a round dimple 1 1/4 inch in diameter. This brick was formed in a mold and pressed. Length 8 3/8, width 3 3/16, height 2 1/2 inches.

San Jose Brick and Tile Co. red ornamental pressed brick
View of the face of the San Jose ornamental pressed brick.

San Jose Brick and Tile Co. red ornamental pressed brick
View of the face of the San Jose ornamental pressed brick displaying the dimple.



References

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.

Copyright 2010 Dan Mosier

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