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
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