California brick
CALIFORNIA BRICKS


Vallejo Brick and Tile Company

Pacific Clay Works

Vallejo Brick and Tile Company, Consolidated

Vallejo Brick and Tile Co. plant
View of the Vallejo Brick and Tile Company plant on Mare Island Straits in Vallejo. From Whitney, 1910.


History


In 1906, the Vallejo Brick and Tile Company was incorporated with a capital stock of $100,000 for the manufacture of brick and tile at Vallejo, Solano County, California. However, it would be three years before they would produce brick due to land purchases, reorganization, and consolidation of former brickyards. The original directors were F.M. Knapp, Adolf Michel, George C. Davis, C.F. Rilet, and S.W. West. Their office was in Oakland and, in 1908, it moved to San Francisco. On October 31, 1906, this company purchased the former 25-acre property of the Hydraulic Pressed Brick Company, which had operated here from 1890 to 1896. On April 1, 1907, the company purchased six acres of tide land from the Vallejo Land and Improvement Company. In 1908, under the new company president, J.W. Beardslee, the company reorganized under the name of the Vallejo Brick and Tile Company, Consolidated, for the purpose of consolidating some of the brickyard properties. On December 12, 1908, the company acquired the 30-acre property of the Pacific Brick Company, which had operated here since 1890. In all, the Vallejo Brick and Tile Company owned 61 acres on the north shore of Mare Island Strait at the current intersection of Wilson Avenue and Lighthouse Drive in Vallejo. The brickyard was called the Pacific Clay Works.

Vallejo Brick and Tile Co. ad
Advertisement of the Vallejo Brick and Tile
Company. From San Francisco Directory, 1908.


The Vallejo Brick and Tile Company, Consolidated, was one of the more successful brick companies from Vallejo. The reason was for the good vitrified shale deposits on Vallejo Hill (now called Bay Terrace) behind the brick plant. The blue shale, also known as "Kidney Shale," 74 feet thick, is overlain by 10 to 40 feet of yellow shale and sandstone lenses. The yellow shale contains 8 percent silica, 58 percent alumina, 20 percent iron oxides, and the rest as calcium, magnesium, and alkalies. Trial runs demonstrated that this shale made good vitrified brick for paving purposes. The composition of the yellow shale was said to be similar to that of the Canton Shale in Ohio, where the Metropolitan Paving Brick was made. The Vallejo company related that a mixture of both kinds of shale with some of the sandstone gave the best results.

Vallejo Brick and Tile Co. shale pit
View of the shale quarry of the Vallejo Brick and Tile Company. From Whitney, 1910.


The brick plant was designed to make wire-cut and pressed bricks using the stiff-mud process. This was the only yard in this section of Vallejo that made wire-cut bricks. The shale and sandstone mixture was dumped into the dry pans and ground fine, then mechanically elevated to the bins for storage. The mixture was fed to the pug mill, where it was mixed with the right amount of water. Then the mixture was sent to the brick machine, where it was forced hot through the die and extruded as a column of clay onto an automatic cutting table, which contained a fly-wheel type of wire-cutter. Here the column of clay was sliced into bricks. The soft bricks were then put through a repress, which added the rounded corners and lugs. Pressed brick were made using a four-mold press machine made by the Chicago Brick Machinery Company. Then they were hand loaded onto cars of 500 bricks each and taken to the long tunnels to be dried. After sufficiently dried, the soft bricks were stacked in the kilns for firing into hard bricks. After the firing and slow cooling, the bricks were sent to the yard to be sorted and stacked for shipping.

interior view cutter table
View of workers removing brick from the cutter table inside the Vallejo plant. From Whitney, 1910.


Interior view brick repress
View of the brick repress machine inside the Vallejo plant. From Whitney, 1910.


interior view dry-press brick machine
View of the dry-press brick machine inside the Vallejo plant. From Whitney, 1910.


interior view brick car
View of the bricks stacked on cars for the tunnel dryers. From Whitney, 1910.


The wire-cutter was capable of making 50,000 bricks per nine hours. There were two represses and one dry press, with a capacity of 20,000 bricks per day. The dryers contained 12 long tunnels. Two types of kilns were used, a round 30-foot beehive down-draft kiln and a 16-chambered continuous down-draft kiln. Each chamber held 35,000 bricks. The kiln was 225 feet long, 60 feet wide, and 10 feet high. The plant was designed to produce 60,000 brick per day.

continuous kiln
View of the 16-chambered continuous kilns at the Vallejo plant. From Whitney, 1910.


round kiln
View of the round down-draft kiln at the Vallejo plant. From Whitney, 1910.


Crude oil was used to fuel the boilers and kilns. The oil was brought by steamer to the company's wharf and pumped to a large storage tank on top of the hill at the rear of the property.

Brick production began in 1909. Most of the bricks produced at this plant were vitrified paving and sewer bricks. A test of the brick made by the Engineering Department of San Francisco showed that it could withstand 15,000 pounds per square inch of pressure. A test by the Navy Department gave an abrasion loss of less than 10 percent and an absorption of a little over one percent. The company's own rattler test gave an abrasion loss of 11 percent for the vitrified brick. An early vitrified paving brick was marked on the face with the initials "P.C.W." for Pacific Clay Works.

Different types of face bricks were made here, including the wire-cut repressed and the dry-pressed face brick. Some collectors believe that the brick marked with a "V" came from the Hydraulic Press Brick Company, which made only pressed brick. However, I found new evidence that the Hydraulic Press Brick Company could not have made this brick, mainly because some of the V face bricks were made using the stiff-mud, wire-cut process that was used by the Vallejo Brick and Tile Company (see below). Also, known features found on the bricks of the Hydraulic Press Brick Company are not present on the V face brick. The V face brick is marked with the letter "V" on the face between two shallow square frogs. Velour texture and wire-cut marks are present on faces of the brick. This face brick is found in shades of orange-red to red and of slightly different sizes (see below for details). Laminations noted in the clay body indicate that the V face brick was among the early ones made here. In October 1911, problems with lamination in the clay mixture was resolved by using a new mixture that also produced a tougher paving brick.

In May 1913, two types of face bricks were introduced, "Nu-Face" and "Ruf-Kut." The Nu-Face brand was a pressed brick and the Ruf-Kut was a wire-cut rough-face brick. They came in colors of salmon, red, chocolate, and black. The company had to import clays from other places to make these face bricks.

In June 1913, the dry-pressed face brick was introduced and this probably included the dry-pressed "V" face brick (see below for further details).

brick wharf
View of the finished bricks on the Vallejo company's wharf ready for shipment. From Whitney, 1910.


brickyard from water
View of schooners loading Vallejo brick from the company's wharf. From Whitney, 1910.

paver brick ad
Advertisement for the Vallejo paving brick. From Architect and Engineer, 1911.


The main markets for their vitrified brick were sewer systems and street pavings, the demand for each fluctuated back and forth. Most of the bricks were shipped out from the company's wharf on the straits to Oakland and San Francisco. In 1909, their first large order was from the San Francisco Harbor Commissioners to supply vitrified brick for several of the piers. San Francisco also used 30 million vitrified brick in the reconstruction of her sewer system. In 1910, the Oakland Traction Company ordered 2 million vitrified brick for runners along their street car tracks. Paving bricks were shipped to Guam by the Navy Department. In 1913, 100,000 Nu-Face bricks went to the Ford automobile plant in San Francisco. Locally, Vallejo paved some of their streets with vitrified paving bricks, such as can still be seen on Sutter Street at the intersection with Capitol Street. Vitrified brick was used in the walls of Crowley's Department Store at 436 Georgia Street and probably in other buildings in town. A fine example of the Nu-Face brick can be seen in the Native Sons Building at 937 Coombs Street in Napa, which used 200,000 bricks in 1913 and provide the examples shown below.

The company had many changes in management over the years. In 1908, F.W. Beardslee was the president and general manager, Charles E. Murdock, Stanley E. Smith, and Samuel Hubbard, Jr., were the succession of secretaries. In 1909, Stanley E. Smith was elected president and Samuel Hubbard, Jr., secretary and treasurer. H.W. Wanamaker was the general manager and superintendent. In 1910, Charles H. Sooy was president, Samuel Hubbard, Jr., secretary and treasurer, and Hubbard replaced Wanamaker as the general manager and superintendent. In 1911, Charles H. Sooy was president, C. Hidecker, from the Ione Firebrick Company at Ione, became the general manager and John Payne, from the California Brick and Pottery Company at Glen Ellen, became the plant superintendent. In 1912, C.F. Armstrong replaced Payne as the new plant superintendent. In 1913, J.F.C. Hagens became the general manager, and the company directors were A. Humberg, J.F.C. Hagens, Bruce Heathcote, C. Hillefeld, and William Cavalier.

Just when the Vallejo Brick and Tile Company was starting to make headway in the market with their popular new line of building bricks, troubles at the plant forced a permanent shutdown in September 1913. Among the problems was the high cost of water. Water from the Vallejo city mains cost $75 to $100 per month. The high cost of importing clays for the building bricks and labor difficulties were other reasons for the shutdown and layoffs. In 1915, the Pratt Building Materials Company of San Francisco purchased the remaining stock, which included about 500,000 pressed, sewer, and paving brick, and sold them at their yard in San Francisco. In 1918, the United States Housing Authority took possession of part of the property for military housing that was to become known as Bay Terrace. The plant sat vacant for four years until Steiger Clay Products Company purchased and reopened the brickyard (see
Steiger Clay Products Company for the continuing story of this brickyard).

The Vallejo Brick and Tile Company, Consolidated, remained as a corporation until March 4, 1916, when it was forfeited by the State of California because of delinquent tax payments. However, the company retained its directors until January 29, 1924, when their holdings were assigned to P.A. Drew following the failure of the Steiger Clay Products Company in late 1923. Drew retained the company name as late as 1927, with the former superintendent, George Sutton, as the residing engineer and watchman.

brickyard
View of the Vallejo Brick and Tile Company yard. From Whitney, 1910.

Native Sons Building Napa
View of the Native Sons Building at 937 Coombs Street in Napa made of Vallejo brick. Photo by Dan Mosier, 2013.


Vallejo Vitrified Brick

Vitrified brick or paving brick is in shades of orange, orange-red to red and mostly uniform in color. Flashings of pale yellow or white are displayed on some sides. The surface is smooth but with numerous pits that are often filled with white mortar. The edges are straight and rounded with prominent repressed lines around the sides and even on some ends. The corners are rounded. Cracks are rare. Longitudinal grooves or scratch marks are present on the sides of some bricks. The faces display faint curved wire-cut marks and longitudinal dashed conveyor imprints. On one of the faces are four round protruding lugs 3/4 inch in diameter and 1/16 inch high with one pair of lugs about a half inch from the corners on one end and another pair of lugs about 1 1/2 inches from the corners at the other end. This strange configuration of lugs may be a unique feature of these pavers. The interior ranges from a pale orange friable (underfired) to a dark red vitrified body. The vitrified body is composed of very tough fused glass. The friable underfired body displays lamination. The clay body contains 10 percent clasts of mostly subrounded red and white chert, subangular yellow and red shale, subangular white quartz, and lesser subrounded red sandstone and round black iron oxide, all less than 1/4 inch across. This brick was made in 1913 using stiff-mud process, wire-cut, and repressed. Length 8 7/8, width 4, height 2 1/2 inches.

Vallejo vitrified paving brick
View of the sides of the Vallejo vitrified paving brick showing the variations in color.

Vallejo vitrified paving brick
View of the sides of the Vallejo vitrified paving brick showing prominent repressed marks.

Vallejo vitrified paving brick
View of the sides of the Vallejo vitrified paving brick.

Vallejo vitrified paving brick
View of the sides of the Vallejo vitrified paving brick.

Vallejo vitrified paving brick
View of the ends of the Vallejo vitrified paving brick.


Vallejo vitrified paving brick surface
View of the pitted surface of the Vallejo vitrified paving brick.

underfired Vallejo vitrified paving brick
View of an underfired Vallejo vitrified paving brick showing lamination and erosion.


Vallejo vitrified paving brick interior
View of the interior of a Vallejo vitrified paving brick.


Wire-cut Repressed V Face Brick

The "V" face brick are in shades of orange red to red and are in two sizes, denoted here as smaller and larger. The sides are smooth with minor blistered pits and transverse striations left by the metal mold. The edges are straight and sharp. The corners are sharp when not broken. The faces of the V brick have distinguishing markings. On one face is a block letter "V" recessed in the center, abbreviating the name of the company. The letter is 3/4 inch wide and 7/8 inch high. On each side of the letter are shallow square frogs, with beveled sides and 2 inches apart. The smaller brick contains squares that measures 2 1/4 inches on the sides and are 1/16 inch in depth. The larger size brick has squares that are 2 3/8 inches on the sides and are 1/8 inch deep. On the reverse face are four round slightly raised lugs that may be difficult to see. On the smaller brick, the lugs are 3/4 inch in diameter and 1 inch apart, each being 1 5/8 inches from the corners. On the larger brick, the lugs are 1 inch in diameter and 1/4 inch apart and each are 1 1/4 inches from the corners. These lugs are just imprints from the mold and do not serve any purpose. There are also several parallel lines of dashes running longitudinally along the face of the brick and these could be imprints from the conveyor belt. The interior consists of about 10 percent visible clasts of subrounded black slate, gray sandstone, white chert, grayish white clay, and black iron oxide, some with blister holes, all less than 1/4 inch in diameter. These are set in a lumpy, compact, vitrified orange-red clay body. Some lamination was noticed in the clay body. This brick was made using the stiff-mud process, extruded, wire-cut, and repressed. Size of the smaller brick is length 8 1/4, width 4, height 2 1/2 inches. Size of the larger brick is length 8 3/4, width 4 1/2, height 2 5/8 inches.

View of the marked face of the small Vallejo V wire-cut repressed face brick
View of the marked face of the small Vallejo V wire-cut repressed
face brick. The square frogs are 2 1/4 inches long on the sides.

View of the marked face of the large Vallejo V wire-cut repressed face brick
View of the marked face of the large Vallejo V wire-cut repressed
face brick. The square frogs are 2 3/8 inches long on the sides.

View of the side of the small Vallejo V wire-cut repressed face brick
View of the side of the small Vallejo V wire-cut repressed face brick.

View of the reverse face of the of the large Vallejo V wire-cut repressed face brick bat.
View of the reverse face of the large Vallejo V wire-cut repressed face brick. Note the
1-inch round lugs indicated by arrows and the horizontal dashes of a conveyor belt imprint.

View of the marked face of the large Vallejo V wire-cut repressed face brick
Close-up view of the marked face of the large Vallejo V wire-cut repressed
face brick, showing the velour texture and grooves of the wire-cut. This is
evidence that the brick was made with an extruding wire-cut machine at this yard.

View of the internal clay body of the large Vallejo V wire-cut repressed face brick
View of the internal clay body of the large Vallejo V wire-cut repressed face brick.

Microscopic view of the internal clay body of the large Vallejo V wire-cut repressed face brick
Microscopic view of the internal clay body of the large Vallejo V
wire-cut repressed face brick (50x, field of view is 1/4 inch).

Dry-Pressed V Face Brick

The "V" dry-pressed face brick is pale orange-red and uniform in color. The surface is smooth with visible clasts, fine pits, and cracks. The edges are straight and nearly sharp. The corners are dull. This brick spalls easily, so the corners and edges are broken or chipped. On one face is a block letter "V" recessed in the center, abbreviating the name of the company. The letter is 1 1/4 inches wide and 1 1/4 inches high. On each side of the letter are shallow square frogs, with beveled sides and 2 1/4 inches apart. The squares measures 2 1/4 inches on the sides and are 1/8 inch in depth. On the reverse face, the surface is flat and even with no marks. The interior consists of about 2 percent round white clay, some with blistered holes and black iron oxide blebs, all less than 1/8 inch in diameter, in a compact granular orange-red clay body. This brick was made using the dry-pressed process. The brick is noticeably thinner compared to the wire-cut repressed variety. Length 8 1/2, width 4, height 2 1/4 inches.

Vallejo V dry-pressed face brick
View of the marked face of the Vallejo V dry-pressed face brick.

View of the side of the Vallejo V dry-pressed face brick
View of the side of the Vallejo V dry-pressed face brick.

Nu-Face brick

This Nu-Face brick is light to dark buff and mostly uniform in color. At a distance, the brick looks straw colored or yellowish, but close examination shows a pinkish or rose buff color. The surface is smooth and some are crackled and some have transverse light colored streaks with visible grains of white quartz and about 3 percent round brown iron oxide. The edges are straight and sharp. The corners are sharp if not broken. Fine transverse striations are visible on the surface. The faces display angled wire-cut marks and three round perforations aligned centered in the longest direction of the brick. The center perforation, being one inch in diameter, is larger than the other two perforations, which measures 7/8 inch in diameter. Inside walls of the center perforation is not smooth, but has a multiple convex form, which is a distinctive feature of this brick. The interior is composed of 15 percent subangular, clear, white, and orange-stained quartz and 5 percent round brown iron oxide, some with open blisters, all less than 1/8 inch in diameter, in a granular, light pinkish clay body, which overall gives the appearance of a fine pink granite. A 4 x 4 x 2 3/4 inch block of the same material was also made, indicating that this brick was made in different sizes. This brick was made in 1913 using the stiff-mud process, wire-cut, and repressed. Three sizes are known for the buff face brick: length 8 3/8, width 4, height 2 5/8 inches; length 8 3/8, width 4, height 2 3/4 inches; and length 8 1/2, width 4, height 2 3/4 inches.

Vallejo Nu-Face brick
View of the sides of the Vallejo Nu-Face brick.

Vallejo Nu-Face brick
View of the sides of the Vallejo Nu-Face brick.

perforated face of Vallejo Nu-Face brick
View of the perforated face of the Vallejo Nu-Face brick.

4 x 4 Vallejo Nu-Face block
View of the 4 x 4 inch Vallejo Nu-Face block.

Interior of the Vallejo Nu-Face brick
View of the interior of the Vallejo Nu-Face brick.

Interior of the Vallejo Nu-Face brick
Microscopic view of the interior of the Vallejo Nu-Face brick (50x, field of view is 1/4 inch).

This Nu-Face brick is dark salmon with black iron spots. The surface is smooth and some are crackled. About 15 percent round black iron oxide are visible on the surface. The edges are straight and sharp. The corners are sharp if not broken. The faces display angled wire-cut marks and three round perforations aligned centered in the longest direction of the brick. The center perforation, being one inch in diameter, is larger than the other two perforations, which measures 7/8 inch in diameter. Inside walls of the center perforation is not smooth, but has a multiple convex form, which is a distinctive feature of this brick. The interior is composed of 15 percent subangular, clear, white, and orange-stained quartz and 15 percent round black iron oxide, some with open blisters, all less than 1/8 inch in diameter, in a granular, dark salmon clay body. This brick was made using the stiff-mud process, wire-cut, and repressed. Two sizes are known for the salmon spotted face brick: length 8 1/4, width 4, height 2 3/4 inches and length 8 3/8, width 4, height 2 5/8 inches.

P.C.W. pressed brick

One of their pressed brick is marked with bold raised lettering abbreviating the Pacific Clay Works as P.C.W. This brick is red and mostly uniform in color. It has smooth sides and faces with the characteristics of a pressed brick. The top and bottom edges show repressed lines, which are straight and rounded. The edges on the ends are straight and sharp. The interior is coarsely granular with visible white quartz and shale all less than 1/8 inch across. The lettering on the face is raised and stands 2 1/2 inches tall with square shaped periods. Complete dimensions are not available because the samples are broken pieces. This brick was made using the dry-pressed process. Length ?, width 4, height 2 1/2 inches.

Marked face of the P.C.W. pressed brick
View of the marked face of part of the Vallejo P.C.W. pressed brick.

Side of the P.C.W. pressed brick
View of the side of the Vallejo P.C.W. pressed brick bat.

Interior clay body of the P.C.W. pressed brick
View of the interior clay body of the Vallejo P.C.W. pressed brick bat.

Microscopic view of the interior of P.C.W. pressed brick 50x
Microscopic view of the interior of the P.C.W. pressed brick showing
white quartz in a compact clay body, 50x (field of view 1/4 inch).

References

Architect and Engineer, May 1911, p. 16.

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. 225.

Bradley, W.W., Mines and Mineral Resources of Portions of California, Part 2: The Counties of Colusa, Glenn, Lake, Marin, Napa, Solano, Sonoma, Yolo. California State Mining Bureau 14th Report of the State Mineralogist, for the Biennial Period 1913-1914, 1916, p. 244-247.

Brick and Clay Record, June 30, 1906, p. 38.

Brick and Clay Record, 1909, v. 30 no. 6, p. 301.

Brick and Clay Record, 1911, v. 38, no. 1, p. 84.

Brick and Clay Record, 1911, v. 38, no. 2.

Brick and Clay Record, 1911, v. 38, no. 4, p. 261.

Brick and Clay Record, 1911, v. 38, no. 6, p. 345.

Brick and Clay Record, 1911, v. 38, no. 9, p. 456.

Brick and Clay Record, 1911, v. 38, no. 10, p. 512.

Brick and Clay Record, Vallejo Brick & Tile Co., 1911, v. 39, no. 1, p. 251-252.

Brick and Clay Record, 1911, v. 39, no. 6, p. 238.

Brick and Clay Record, 1912, v. 40, no. 10, p. 474.

Brick and Clay Record, 1913, v. 42, no. 11, p. 1000.

Brick and Clay Record, 1913, v. 42, no. 12, p. 1090.

Brick and Clay Record, 1913, v. 43, no. 4, p. 404.

Brick and Clay Record, 1915, v. 46, no. 6, p. 589.

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

Kern, James E., Executive Director of the Vallejo Naval and Historical Museum, personal communication, 2013.

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

Oakland Tribune, Notice of Assessment, January 5, 1908.

Oakland Tribune, Notice of Intention To Change Principal Place of Business, August 7, 1908.

Oakland Tribune, Traction Company to Use New Terminal, February 23, 1910.

New California Enterprise, Brick and Clay Record, 1929, v. 29, no. 3, p. 410.

Pidgeon, E., written communications, 2012.

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

San Francisco City Directories, 1908-1917.

Solano County Deeds, F.S.N. Knapp and S.W. West to Vallejo Brick and Tile Co., 1906, Book 165, p. 268.

Solano County Deeds, Pacific Clay Co. to Vallejo Brick and Tile Co., Cons. 1908, Book 172, p. 164.

Solano County Deeds, Pacific Clay Co. to Vallejo Brick and Tile Co., Cons. 1911, Book 192, p. 179.

Solano County Deeds, Pacific Clay Co. to Vallejo Brick and Tile Co., Cons. 1911, Book 193, p. 18.

Solano County Deeds, Vallejo Brick and Tile Co. to Vallejo Brick and Tile Co., Cons., 1911, Book 192, p. 65.

Solano County Deeds, Vallejo Brick and Tile Co. to Vallejo Brick and Tile Co., Cons. 1908, Book 172, p. 182.

Solano County Deeds, Vallejo Brick and Tile Co. to Vallejo Brick and Tile Co., Cons. 1911, Book 192, p. 176.

Solano County Deeds, Vallejo Brick and Tile Co., Cons. to P.A. Drew 1924, Book 268, p. 187.

Solano County Deeds, Vallejo Brick and Tile Co., Cons., to USA 1918, Book 234, p. 350.

Solano County Deeds, Vallejo Brick and Tile Co., Cons., to USA 1918, Book 237, p. 133.

Solano County Deeds, Vallejo Land and Improvement Co. to Vallejo Brick and Tile Co., 1907, Book 166, p. 296.

Vallejo City Directories, 1907-1927.

Whitney, E.M., Splendid Plant of the Vallejo Brick and Tile Co. Consolidated, Architect and Engineer, 1910, v. 21, no. 1, p. 112-113.

Copyright 2013 Dan Mosier

Contact Dan Mosier at danmosier@earthlink.net.