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A Short Story of the Tiffany Brick Company

by I. E. Hardy 1907

The Tiffany Enameled Brick Co. was first incorporated in 1884, and was then know as the Tiffany Pressed Brick Co. There was at that time what was called a slop brick yard on the ground now occupied by the present plant. The bricks were molded by hand and then dried in the open air, and burned in up-draft kilns. The clay was found to be well suited to the manufacture of a high grade pressed brick and the land was bought by some Chicago capitalists, machinery installed, and the manufacture of brick on a larger scale was commenced.

Mr. Alsip was the first Superintendent, and was succeeded in 1888 by Mr. S.J. Plant. From this time the plant was constantly enlarged and the output increased to meet the demand for their product. From plain red brick, the firm began to make different shades, such as brown, buff, pink and mottled, as well as a large assortment of ornamental shapes. To do this, different kinds of clay had to be found. A clay burning to a pink shade was found at Grant Park, and fine buff burning clay at Clay City, Ind. The brown brick was made by the addition of manganese to the red clay, while the mottled brick was made by the mixing of the red and buff together. The product was considered to be among the best in the country, and soon found a ready market, thus keeping the plant running to its fullest capacity.

In 1893 there had grown such a demand for enameled brick in this country that the company determined to try to manufacture this class of goods as well as the pressed brick. Mr. Isaac Hardy, a practical man who had been manufacturing enameled brick in England for some years, and who had just arrived in this country, was appointed Superintendent, and at once commenced his experiments. There are a good many ways to make this grade of brick, each one a little better suited to certain conditions then others. They are generally divided under two heads, the one burn process and the two burn. After carefully studying the situation it was found that the best method would be the two burn.

The reason for this is the fact that the machinery was all of the dry pressed type, and a dry pressed brick cannot be dipped in anything wet without cracking the face. Difficulties were, of course, encountered but were steadily overcome, and by October the company was turning out brick that was considered by the Chicago architects good enough. Up to this time all the enameled brick used in Chicago were imported from Europe, but not an imported brick has entered the city from that time.

The quality of the brick grew steadily better until at the present time it is considered as the standard. The clay is a mixture of the Clay City clay and a fire clay from Montezuma, Ind. The bricks are pressed and then taken to a drier and dried. From here they are taken to what are called the biscuit kilns and burned. After cooling they are drawn and taken to the enameling rooms. Here they are known as biscuit bricks. Here they are enameled; the superfluous material cleaned from the edges, and then set in the finishing kilns. They are here burned up to a temperature of 2,400 degrees F., cooled off and then drawn and sorted into firsts, seconds and builders. The principal shades made are white, ream and granite. Other colors made are blues, greens, browns and yellows, as well as various shades of mottled brick. The plant is now running at its full capacity, and has proven of great benefit to the town of Momence.

Picture courtesy of Kevin Hollub
Source: 1907 Momence Yearbook