California brick
CALIFORNIA BRICKS


Steiger-Vallejo Brick Company

Steiger Clay Products Company

History


Steiger-Vallejo Brick Co. plant
View of the Steiger-Vallejo Brick Company's plant in Vallejo. From Laizure, 1927.

In 1917, Louis A. Steiger of the Steiger Terra Cotta and Pottery Works in South San Francisco, formed a new company called the Steiger Clay Products Company in an effort to expand their operations to other cities. The closed brick plant of the Vallejo Brick and Tile Company, Consolidated, situated on the north shore of Mare Island Strait in Vallejo, was of particular interest to Steiger because of the well-known vitrified clay deposit on the property, which was suitable for making clay sewer pipes and bricks. Louis Steiger hired George Sutton, formerly a foreman at the Houze brick works, as superintendent to prepare the brick plant for reopening. In February 1922, the Steiger-Vallejo Brick Company was incorporated at Vallejo with a capital stock of $500,000. Alber Casper was president, W.J. Tormey was vice-president and treasurer, A.H. Weble was secretary, and Louis A. Steiger was the general manager. On August 10, 1922, P.A. Drew, an agent for the Vallejo Brick and Tile Company, transferred the property of the Pacific Brick Works over to the new company. The stockholders of the Vallejo Brick and Tile Company, Consolidated, supported Steiger's efforts to help recover their losses in the closed plant, which they still held some interest.

In February 1922, Louis A. Steiger announced to the Vallejo Chamber of Commerce that his company was interested in building a new pottery plant in Vallejo provided the city accommodates all of their needs. Perhaps those "needs" were not met as Steiger never built a new pottery plant for the manufacture of clay sewer pipe as he had planned. Instead, the old works of the Vallejo Brick and Tile Company were reconditioned for the production of vitrified face and building bricks and hollow tile. Materials for the bricks were mined from the shale pit at the rear of the plant and additional material was shipped to the plant from Steiger's own clay pits in Amador County.

The plant was reopened in May 17, 1922, as orders began to come in from various points. About 40 workers were hired at the yard. The three kilns, two continuous tunnel kilns and one round down-draft kiln, were fired up in August 1922. This plant made red vitrified pressed brick in various shades of color. An order for gray brick was received from San Francisco. One of the contracts to supply brick was from the First Methodist Church in Vallejo, whose church edifice still stands on the corner of Sonoma Blvd. and 502 Virginia Street and provides the examples of their brick shown below. Like in the previous operations, most of the bricks were sent to San Francisco and other cities around the bay. In August, a small shipment of brick went to Sebastopol. In September, an order for 100,000 pressed bricks was received from the Stauffer chemical works in Oakland.

In 1923, with anticipated demand for their pressed bricks, Steiger spent over $100,000 to enlarge the brick plant. The California State Mining Bureau reported that this company produced an excellent quality of brick and tile, but mismanagement of the company's affairs resulted in the suspension of operations in the latter part of 1923. On January 29, 1924, the directors of the Vallejo Brick and Tile Company, Consolidated, transferred their holdings back to P.A. Drew. Drew retained the company name as late as 1927, with the former superintendent, George Sutton, as the residing engineer and watchman. Eventually, the kilns and plants were razed and the area was transformed into a residential subdivision called Bay Terrace. Today, pieces of brick along the roadside of Wilson Avenue are the only remnants from this yard.

First Methodist Church Vallejo
View of the First Methodist Church at Sonoma Blvd. and Virginia Street in Vallejo,
built of 1922 Steiger-Vallejo red pressed brick. Photo by Dan Mosier, 2013.

Steiger-Vallejo Brick

Vitrified pressed brick is very similar to the Vallejo Brick and Tile Company's brick. Colors are orange-red to red. Some display white flashings on the sides. The surface is smooth with numerous small pits and some show patches of sand in places. The edges are straight and rounded with prominent repress markings. The corners are rounded. Some of the edges show some crazing and there are minor cracks on the sides. The sides on some contain one or two longitudinal grooves. The faces have a velour texture trending in the longitudinal direction with straight wire-cut grooves in the transverse direction. One face displays two round lugs, about 3/4 inch in diameter and about 1 1/4 inches from the corners, which are similar to the lugs on the Vallejo Brick and Tile Company's brick. Minerals visible on the surface are rare, but when present are subangular white quartz and round black iron oxide, less than 1/4 inch across. The interior consists of about two percent quartz and iron oxides in a red compact vitrified clay body. One distinguishing feature is a prominent longitudinal groove seen on the ends of many bricks positioned about a half inch above the base of the brick. This could be an imprint from the brick press. This brick was made in 1922 using the stiff-mud process, face-cut, and repressed. The size of the brick is variable in length and width, and the Steiger-Vallejo brick appears to be smaller than that made by the Vallejo Brick and Tile Company. Length 8 1/4 - 8 3/8, width 3 3/4 - 3 7/8, height 2 1/2 inches.

Vallejo-Steiger pressed brick
View of the sides of the Vallejo-Steiger pressed brick. Sand patches can be seen
on the upper left and lower right bricks and flashings on the center brick.

Vallejo-Steiger pressed brick
View of the rounded edges and corners and repress marks on the Vallejo-Steiger pressed brick.

Vallejo-Steiger pressed brick end
View of the end of the Vallejo-Steiger pressed brick with the
distinct longitudinal groove about a half inch above the base.

Vallejo-Steiger pressed brick velour face
Partial view of the velour face of the Steiger-Vallejo pressed brick with two round lugs peeking out of the mortar.


References

Brick and Clay Record, 1917, v. 51, no. 11, p. 965

Brick and Clay Record, Vallejo Company Enlarging, 1923, v. 62, no. 1, p. 54.

Brick and Clay Record, Wants Money For Expansion, 1923, v. 62, no. 12, p. 1072.

Brick and Clay Record, May Build Pottery At Vallejo, 1922, v. 60, no. 4, p. 294.

Brick and Clay Record, Success of New Firm Certain, 1922, v. 60, no. 8, p. 631.

Brick and Clay Record, Vallejo Plant Opens, 1922, v. 60, no. 12, p. 937.

Brick and Clay Record, Issues 12,000 Shares of Stock, 1922, v. 60, no. 13, p. 1011.

Clay Worker, 1922, v. 77, no. 4, p. 382.

Dietrich, Waldemar F. The Clay Resources and the Ceramic Industry of California, California State Mining Bureau Bulletin 99, 1928, p. 209-210.

Laizure, C. McK. San Francisco Division: Contra Costa, Solano counties, California State Mining Bureau, Mining in California, State Mineralogist's Report 23, no. 2, 1927, p. 203-212.

Lucy, Thomas, Vallejo's Brick, Tile, and Terra Cotta Industries, Solano Historian, December 1988.

Oakland Tribune, August 18, 1922.

Oakland Tribune, September 20, 1922.

Pidgeon, E., written communications, 2012.

Sanborn Map Company. Vallejo, Solano Co., Cal. March 1919.

Solano County Deed Book 264, P.A. Drew to Steiger Clay Products Company, 1922, p. 31.

Solano County Deed Book 268, Vallejo Brick and Tile Company, Consolidated, to P.A. Drew, 1924, p. 187.

Vallejo City Directories, 1917-1927.

Vallejo Times-Herald, January 25, 1976, p. 21.

Vallejo Times-Herald, November 5, 1972, p. 17.

Copyright 2013 Dan Mosier

Contact Dan Mosier at danmosier@earthlink.net.