Thomas Whaley, a native of New York City, was 25 years
old when he joined the gold rush for California in 1849.
In 1851, he arrived in San Diego and, in partnership
with Lewis A. Franklin, opened a store called Tienda
California. In 1853 he returned to New York to marry
Miss Anna E. Lannay, and brought his new bride back to
his home in San Diego. In 1856, Whaley made bricks for
his new home and store building on San Diego Avenue.
The surface clay for the brick was probably obtained
on his property near the store. The exact location of
his brick kiln is unknown.
From surviving Whaley bricks, it can be seen that the
soft-mud process was used. The clay was thrown into
wooden molds and struck with sand to form bricks. The
bricks were probably dried in the sun before they were
fired to hard bricks in the field kiln. The kiln was
probably fueled by wood.
In 1859, Whaley left San Diego to find employment
elsewhere. He returned to San Diego in 1879, and embarked
in the real estate business and politics. He passed
away in 1890.
Whaley's home and store building still stands in Old
Town San Diego and is nationally famous for being one
of the most haunted homes in the country. The building is
a California historic landmark and is believed to be the
oldest surviving clay-fired brick building in San Diego.
Common brick is light orange to orange-red, mostly
uniform in color. The surface is sand-struck and
contains minor pits up to 1/2 inch across. The sides
are uneven with irregular, dull edges and dull or
broken corners. Some have irregular lip up to 1/2
inch thick around the top edges. Transverse grooves
occur on the sides and ends. The bottom face is
unmarked and have minor pits. The top face is pitted
and displays angled longitudinal strike marks. The
interior has a dark orange clay body full of sand
grains made of mostly subangular white quartz up
to 1/4 inch across. The sandy clasts range from 10
to 50 percent of the clay body. This brick was made
in 1856. This brick was made using the soft-mud process.
Length 8 1/4, width 3 3/4 - 4 1/4, height 2 1/4 inches.
View of the side of the Whaley common brick in the Whaley House.
View of the side and end of the Whaley common brick in the Whaley House.
View of the face of the Whaley common brick in the Whaley House fireplace.
View of the interior of the Whaley common brick.
Save Our Heritage Organization, Thomas Whaley House exhibits, Old Town San Diego, 2007.
Copyright © 2007 Dan Mosier
Smythe, William E., History of San Diego, 1542-1908: An account of the rise and progress
of the pioneer settlement on the Pacific coast of the United States, History Company,
San Diego, 1908, p. 290-292.