California brick
CALIFORNIA BRICKS


Santa Monica Brick Company

History


In October 1922, the Santa Monica Brick Company was formed to manufacture bricks and clay products in Santa Monica, Los Angeles County, California, with a capital stock of $100,000. The officers were Eric A. Douglas as president and Frank M. Taylor as secretary. The company office was at 606 South Hill Street and, after 1927, at 816 West 5th Street in Los Angeles. The brickyard property of 10 acres was on the northeast corner of 23rd Street (now Cloverfield Blvd.) and Michigan Avenue. This was the same deposit of plastic, red-burning clay mined by several other brick companies in this area. The clay bank in 1927 was 45 feet in height. A power shovel was used to mine the clay, which was hauled to the plant in cars operated by an endless cable hoist.

View of the brick plant of the Santa Monica Brick Company.
View of the brick plant of the Santa Monica Brick Company, 1939. Courtesy
of the Santa Monica Public Library Image Archives, City Collection.

Initially, the soft-mud process was used to make common brick marked with "S.M.B.Co." In 1923, the company ordered a Bonnot stiff-mud machine with a lubricating side-cut die, which made bricks 8 5/8 inches long, 4 1/8 inches wide, and 4 inches high. In 1928, the plant consisted of large buildings containing elevators and conveyors, a 60-h.p. 24-inch by 24-inch American disintegrator, a 150-h.p. American auger machine, with a capacity of 75,000 brick per day, an American automatic brick cutter, a 40-h.p. Fate-Root-Heath roofing-tile auger, with a capacity of 10,000 tile per day, and a hand-operated roofing-tile cutter. The plant operated throughout the year with about 60 workers.

View of the clay pit of the Santa Monica Brick Company.
View of the clay pit of the Santa Monica Brick Company, 1939. Courtesy
of the Santa Monica Public Library Image Archives, City Collection.

The clay products were dried in a hot-air tunnel drier, operated on a schedule of 36 hours. There were 10 up-draft field kilns with permanent walls. Four of the kilns were used for firing bricks. Each kiln had a capacity of 500,000 brick. Five of the kilns were used for firing roofing tile, with 15,000 capacity per kiln. One kiln with 1,000 square feet capacity was used for floor tile. The bricks were water smoked for three days, fired for four days, and allowed to cool for three days. Drawing and setting required about seven days. The finishing temperature at the end of the firing period was approximately cone 07 (1,787 degrees F). The tile were water smoked for one day, fired for three days, and cooled in two days. One day was required for setting and drawing.

Santa Monica Brick Company advertisement. From Santa Monica Outlook, 1924.
Santa Monica Brick Company advertisement. From Santa Monica Outlook, 1924.

Numerous clay products were produced here, including common and wire-cut brick, hollow tile, roofing tile, floor tile, wall tile, and sewer pipe. Their advertisements mentions their Red Brick, Rough Mat Face, Cardinal Smooth Face, and Common Builders brick. Their Rough Texture Face Brick came in shades of reds, browns, purples, and greens. Handmade Mission roofing tile were also made and air-dried. Wall tiles of different sizes were made in plain and elaborate designs (see below for examples found by archaeologists at the brickyard site). Many of the products were marked with the company name either in full or abbreviated. These products were shipped out by rail or trucks and used throughout Los Angeles County.

Examples of the red rug and common bricks can be seen in the Fraternal Order of Eagles Hall building at 1627 Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice. This two-story building built in 1925 has side walls made of Santa Monica common brick and the front is faced with red rug brick. The roofing tile may also be a product of the Santa Monica Brick Company, but that could not be verified.

Santa Monica Brick Company advertisement. From Santa Monica Outlook, 1924.
Santa Monica Brick Company advertisement. From Santa Monica Outlook, 1925.

In 1930, the Santa Monica Brick Company was merged with two other brick companies, Western Brick Company at Long Beach and California Brick and Tile Company at Van Nuys, to form the Consolidated Brick and Tile Company, Ltd., based at 816 West 5th Street in Los Angeles. This merger forced the closing of the brickyards at Long Beach and Van Nuys, leaving only the Santa Monica brickyard in operation, probably because of the higher quality clay deposit. Although the Santa Monica Brick Company continued to operate its brickyard under its original name, the products were branded starting in 1930 with "C.B.T.Co." to reflect the new company (see
Consolidated Brick and Tile Company).

About 1934, the Santa Monica brickyard was closed. The Santa Monica Brick Company was dissolved in the early 1940s.

Santa Monica Brick

Common Brick


The common brick is dark orange-red and mostly uniform in color. The coating of sand on the surface consists mostly of clear and orange-stained subangular quartz, with minor brown iron oxide and black magnetite. The edges are sharp and straight with good form. The corners are dull. The sides display stack indentations. The top face is rough and pitted and displays a longitudinal strike. The edges around the top face may form a lip up to 3/8 inch in thickness. The bottom face contains a rectangular frog with beveled sides and is 6 3/4 inches in length, 2 1/8 inches in width, and 3/16 inch in depth. Centered in the bottom of the frog are the raised block letters of the company abbreviations S.M.B.Co, which span 6 inches and stand 1 1/4 inches. The lower case "o" stands 5/8 inch in height and there is no ending period. The periods are round. The letters are 3/16 inch in thickness. The interior contains less than 2 percent subangular granite and white quartz, less than 1/8 inch in diameter, in a compact, fine clay body. This brick was made using the soft-mud process. Length 8 3/8 - 8 1/2, width 3 3/4 - 4, height 2 1/4 inches.

View of the marked face of the Santa Monica common brick.
View of the marked face of the Santa Monica common brick.

View of the sides of the Santa Monica common brick.
View of the sides of the Santa Monica common brick.

View of the side of the Santa Monica common brick.
View of the side of the Santa Monica common brick.

View of the rough top face of the Santa Monica common brick.
View of the rough top face of the Santa Monica common brick.

View of the interior clay body of the Santa Monica common brick.
View of the interior clay body of the Santa Monica common brick.

Microscopic view of the interior clay body of the Santa Monica common brick.
Microscopic view of the interior clay body of the Santa
Monica common brick (50x, field of view is 1/4 inch).

Wire-Cut Rug Brick

The wire-cut rug brick is uniformly orange-red or red. It has excellent form with straight sharp edges and sharp corners. One side is smooth and it may display transverse drag marks or striations. One side and both ends contain the rug texture, which are widely and evenly spaced deep transverse scoring. The scores are spaced about 1/2 inch apart, with 8 on the ends and 18 on the sides. The ridges have flat and smooth caps that are as much as 1/4 inch wide. This score and ridge pattern is diagnostic for rug bricks made by the Santa Monica Brick Company. Faces contain strong velour texture and steep curved grooves made by the wire-cut. No brand marking was found. The interior contains one percent subangular white quartz less than 1/8 inch in diameter in a fine clay body. This brick was made using the stiff-mud process. Length 8 3/8, width 4, height 2 1/4 inches.

View of the sides of the Santa Monica red rug brick.
View of the sides of the Santa Monica red rug brick.

View of the side of the Santa Monica red rug brick.
View of the side of the Santa Monica red rug brick.

View of the end of the Santa Monica red rug brick showing eight transverse scores.
View of the end of the Santa Monica red rug brick showing eight transverse scores.

View of the wire-cut face of the Santa Monica red rug brick.
View of the wire-cut face of the Santa Monica red rug brick.

View of the interior clay body of the Santa Monica red rug brick.
View of the interior clay body of the Santa Monica red rug brick.

Tile

Below are examples of the tile made by the Santa Monica Brick Company.

View of 1/4-inch white tiles of the Santa Monica Brick Company.
View of 1/4-inch thick white tiles of the Santa Monica Brick Company.
Hexagonal tile on the left is 3 1/4 inch in diameter. Broken
square tile on the right is 3 inches across. Donated by Roy Steege.

View of the marked view of the white tile of the Santa Monica Brick Company.
View of the marked back of the 1/4-inch white tile of the Santa Monica Brick Company.

View of the rectangular white tile of the Santa Monica Brick Company.
View of the rectangular white tile of the Santa Monica Brick
Company. Size is 3 3/4 x 2 x 1/2 inches. Donated by Roy Steege.

View of the decorative red tile of the Santa Monica Brick Company.
View of part of a decorative red tile of the Santa Monica Brick Company. The design
is raised on the surface. The longest edge is 3 1/2 inches. Donated by Roy Steege.

View of the Monaco red patio tile of the Santa Monica Brick Company.
View of the Monaco red octagon patio tile of the Santa Monica Brick Company. Size
is 10 inches in diameter and 1 1/4 inches in thickness. Donated by Roy Steege.

View of the Monaco mark on the back of the red patio tile of the Santa Monica Brick Company.
View of the Monaco mark on the back of the red octagon patio
tile of the Santa Monica Brick Company. Donated by Roy Steege.

References

Clay-Worker, v. 78, no. 4, 1922, p. 384.

Dietrich, Waldemar F., The Clay Resources and the Ceramic Industry of California, California State Mining Bureau Bulletin 99, 1928, p. 118-119.

Higgins, Josh, written communications, 2012.

Los Angeles City Directories, 1927-1934.

Office of Historic Resources, SurveyLA, LA Historic Resources Survey, Venice Report, Los Angeles Department of City Planning, Los Angeles, 4/2/2015, preservation.lacity.org.

Santa Monica City Directories, 1923-1940.

Santa Monica Public Library, Santa Monica Image Archives.

Santa Monica Outlook, February 14, 1925.

Santa Monica Outlook, October 18, 1924.

Steege, Roy, written communications, 2008.

Stoll, G.C. ledgers, Western Claymachinery Sales, Inc., copied by Josh Higgins, 2012.

Symons, Henry H., California Mineral Production For 1927, California State Mining Bureau Bulletin 101, 1928, 311 p.

Symons, Henry H., California Mineral Production and Directory of Mineral Producers For 1930, California State Mining Bureau Bulletin 105, 1931, 231 p.

Symons, Henry H., California Mineral Production and Directory of Mineral Producers For 1934, California State Mining Bureau Bulletin 111, 1935, 334 p.

Copyright 2014 Dan Mosier

Contact Dan Mosier at danmosier@earthlink.net.