California brick
CALIFORNIA BRICKS


Torrance Brick Company

History


Torrance Brick Company advertisement.
Advertisement from the Torrance City Directory, 1927.

In early 1924, Victor T. and Joe Pullman opened a brickyard on the southeast corner of Plaza del Amo and Border Avenue in Torrance, Los Angeles County, California. The Torrance Brick Company was incorporated with Victor T. Pullman as president and manager, Joseph Pullman, and others. The address of the office and yard was 1700 Plaza del Amo, Torrance.

Map showing the brickyard.
Map of Torrance showing the clay pit and brick plant
buildings (in center). U. S. Geological Survey, 1934.

The Torrance Brick Company's property covered about 15 acres, which contained a 30-foot bed of red and yellow plastic clay beneath one foot of soil. Four acres of this land in the eastern part of the property, known as the sewer farm, was owned by the City of Torrance and, in 1926, was leased to the brick company at a rate of 8 cents per ton of clay extracted for five years. The brick company paid the city $4,500 in advance royalties. The plant, built in January 1924, was situated immediately north of the clay pit.

Clay was mined by scrapers in a pit that was about 1,000 feet long and 200 feet wide and 30 feet deep. After the clay was delivered to the hopper at the plant, it was elevated by a bucket elevator to the grinders. The grounded clay was elevated by a bucket to the wire screens. Oversized material was returned to the grinders. Fine clay was then sent to the pug mill and then to the Bonnot auger machine with a wire-cutter, which sliced the bricks on the faces, 2 9/16 inch thick. The auger machine had a capacity of 50,000 to 60,000 brick per day.

Map showing the brickyard
Advertisement from the Torrance Herald, 1929.

Hand trucks were used to transport the brick to the drying sheds for proper drying. Then the bricks were sent to the field kilns where they were fired by natural gas. There were four field kilns, each with a capacity of 750,000 bricks. Electric power was provided by a 105 h.p. engine. The yard employed 30 workers during the dry months.

Advertisement from the Torrance Herald, 1925.
Advertisement from the Torrance Herald, 1925.

The Torrance plant produced red wire-cut common and facing brick. A better quality wire-cut common was called "Select Common." The facing brick, which may have been rug textures in shades of red, was called "Shirvan Tapestry." The bricks were shipped out by trucks and the local railroads, with the Pacific Electric Railway running near the plant. Torrance brick was popular with hotel and apartment buildings in the Torrance area, and the bricks were shipped throughout the Los Angeles Basin. Many advertisements were published in the local newspaper to encourage the use of brick, especially when building homes.

The first wire-cut common bricks went into the Torrance Herald building on Marcelina Street, Torrance, in March 1924. Later that year, the bricks were used to build the Women's Clubhouse, which still stands on Engracia Street in Torrance. In May 1925, Torrance brick was selected for the Torrance Elementary School. The Shirvan Tapestry facing brick was used on the Y.W.C.A. building in Long Beach in 1925. In May 1926, Torrance bricks were used to build the No. 1 Firehouse on Cravens Avenue, funded by the clay royalty money paid to the City of Torrance. Fortunately, a brick from the now demolished firehouse was saved by the Torrance Historical Society and provides the information given for Torrance brick below. Torrance bricks were reported to be the first to be shipped out of San Pedro for Trans-Pacific ports. The D. & M. Machine Works building (1929) on Artisano (now Abalone) Avenue in Torrance was also built of Torrance wire-cut common bricks. All of the buildings just mentioned, except for the Woman's Clubhouse, have been demolished.

Advertisement from the Torrance Herald, 1925. Advertisement from the Torrance Herald, 1925.
Advertisements from the Torrance Herald, 1925.

The Torrance Brick Company operated until the end of 1931, when the yard was permanently closed. The last stockholders' meeting was held on January 11, 1932. The abandoned clay pit on city property was made into a shooting range by the Revolver and Rifle Association of Torrance in 1934. Over time the brick plant was razed and the clay pit was filled. Today the property is covered by housing and a little league baseball park.

Victor Theodore Pullman was born in Denmark in 1887. He immigrated to the United States in 1893 or 1894 and resided in Utah and Idaho. He married Margaret Keck in 1911 at Twin Falls, Idaho, and raised two children. The Pullman's came to California in the 1920s and resided at Torrance. Victor passed away at Torrance in 1949. His brother, Joseph Leroy Pullman was born in Denmark in 1885. He immigrated to New York in 1892 or 1894 and married Mary Stutz at Salt Lake City, Utah, in 1905, and they raised three children. After Mary died in 1910, Joseph married Minnetta Skinner at Lincoln, Idaho, in 1914, and they had six children. They came to California in the 1920s. Joseph passed away in 1956 in Idaho, where he was residing.

Advertisement from the Torrance Herald, 1929.
Saved brick from the demolished Firehouse No. 1 that once stood on Craven Avenue in Torrance.
White paint masks the front of the brick. Courtesy of the Torrance Historical Society Museum.

Torrance Brick

Rug Brick

Torrance oversized rug brick is orange-red and uniform in color. The edges are straight. Long edges are sharp and the short edges are rounded. The corners are dull. The brick has good form and has a square cross-section. The sides are smooth except for the sides with rug textures. A few specks of white quartz and pits are visible on the surface. The wire-cut face displays curved wire-cut grooves on a smooth but pitted surface. White quartz and streaks of white clay are visible on the cut faces. Finely striated rug texture is seen on one side and one end of the brick. There are about 18 transverse scores per inch and they are evenly spaced at a little less than 1/16 inch apart. The smooth margins at each end of the rug texture is about 3/16 to 1/4 inch wide. The interior consists of about 5 percent white subangular quartz, some stained orange, round black iron oxide, and round white clay, all mostly less than 3/8 inch in diameter, in a fine clay body. This brick was made using the stiff-mud process. Length 9 3/4, width 3 1/4, height 3 1/4 inches.

View of one end of the Torrance rug brick showing the fine scoring texture.
View of one end of the Torrance rug brick
showing the fine transverse scoring pattern.
The top right corner of the brick is missing.

View of the wire-cut face of the Torrance rug brick.
View of the wire-cut face of the Torrance rug brick. Note the white streaks of clay
and white quartz exposed on the face. White paint covers the bottom of the brick.

Close up view of the wire-cut face of the Torrance rug brick showing exposed quartz.
Close up view of the wire-cut face of the
Torrance rug brick showing exposed quartz.

References

30 Years Ago, Torrance Herald, May 7, 1956.

Around the Council Table, Torrance Herald, June 9, 1932.

Ask Commission to Adjust Freight on Torrance Bricks, Torrance Herald, December 19, 1924.

Bid of Market Winner, Torrance Herald, May 6, 1926.

Brick Company Founder Dies After Collapse, Torrance Herald, June 9, 1949.

City Land Lease is Ordered, Torrance Herald, March 18, 1926.

City Property to Be Used For Revolver Range, Torrance Herald, December 6, 1934.

D. & M. Invites All To Opening, Torrance Herald, October 24, 1929.

Dietrich, Waldemar F., The Clay Resources and the Ceramic Industry of California, California State Mining Bureau Bulletin 99, 1928, p. 120.

Formal Opening of Women's Clubhouse Next Thursday, Torrance Herald, October 22, 1924.

Here is the Herald's New Home on Marcelina Street, Torrance Herald, March 25, 1924.

Higgins, Josh, written communications, 2014.

George, Michael, personal communications, Katy Geissert Civic Center Library, Torrance, 2015.

Magnificant Buildings of Torrance Tapestry Brick, Torrance Herald, May 29, 1925.

Notice of Stockholders' Meeting, Torrance Herald, January 7, 1932.

Riley-Daniels, Kathleen, Koonce Oster family tree, Ancestry.com, 2015.

Ronan, Jerry, personal communications, Torrance Historical Society Museum, 2015.

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

Symons, Henry H., California Mineral Production For 1929, California State Mining Bureau Bulletin 103, 1930, 231 p.

Symons, Henry H., California Mineral Production and Directory of Mineral Producers For 1931, California State Mining Bureau Bulletin 107, 1932, 229 p.

Torrance Brick Co. is One of Area's Important Industries, Torrance Herald, September 16, 1926.

Torrance Brick is Selected For School Building, Torrance Herald, May 15, 1925.

Torrance Brick Now Sold Over Entire So. Cal., Torrance Herald, November 14, 1924.

Torrance City Directory, 1927.

U.S. Geological Survey, Torrance, 15-minute Quadrangle Topographic Map, 1934.

Weideman, Kurt, personal communications, Torrance Historical Society Museum, 2015.

Copyright 2015 Dan Mosier

Contact Dan Mosier at danmosier@earthlink.net.