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The Brick and Brick-Making

A brick is such a common, such a plebeian thing that the average person has perhaps never given it a second thought. Inquiry would probably develop the fact that he had a somewhat hazy idea that it was made of earth and baked in some way perhaps like a baked potato or a pan of biscuits and that was about all he knew about it. If this average man were told that there is a concern in Salt Lake making 200,000 brick per day enough to build ten modern five-room houses he would probably be incredulous and want to be "shown," and yet it is true.

The Salt Lake Pressed Brick Company is that concern, and in the number of employees and value of product it stands well up in the list of large manufacturers in Utah. Its extensive plant is located at Fourteenth South and Eleventh East Streets, Salt Lake City. When the original plant was built, in 1891, it was only after exhaustive explorations for and tests of clay beds containing suitable brick material throughout the valley generally, from points in Davis County on the north to the vicinity of Sandy on the south. Time and experience have justified the wisdom of the selection then made. Not only has the clay proved admirably adapted to the manufacture of the finest brick, but it has been found to exist in unexpected quantities. The beds are in some places fourteen feet thick and are known to extend east from the factory for a mile and a half and to considerable distances in other directions. The company now owns 150 acres of these clay lands, and has the material to make brick for years to come. The plant itself covers nearly ten acres of ground. In its construction 10,000,000 brick were used, more than were required in building any ether structure or plant in Utah, the great Garfield Smelter alone accepted. The whole plant is lighted and operated, so far as power can be applied, by electricity generated by two water-propelled power plants, one located in Big Cottonwood Canyon and one in Mill Creek Canyon.

John P. Cahoon, General Manager

The first brick plant built by the company had a capacity of 20,000 brick per day which has now grown to 200,000 per day, and it is harder to keep up with the demand now than it was then. Such success is not usually achieved without merit, the product of the company being a superior article, whether the high-grade white or red pressed brick of which so many handsome buildings in Salt Lake are constructed; or the common brick used in inside and back walls. This superiority is due to perfect material, adequate equipment and efficient management combined with "knowing how." These things have given the brick produced by this company a wide fame throughout the inter-mountain country and they are extensively used all over Utah, Nevada, southern Idaho and western Wyoming, going as far west as Goldfield, Nevada, and Boise, Idaho, and north to Butte, Montana. Twenty-five of the largest school buildings in Salt Lake City, besides scores of other large buildings and many hundreds of residences, have been built from the product of this factory. There is a rail-road switch to the factory from the Park City line, affording good shipping facilities.

The clay is plowed from the beds where nature placed it and scraped to the loading chutes where it falls into cars each holding enough to make 2,000 brick, and is run by mule power on an easy down grade to the clay sheds which have a storage capacity sufficient to run the factory through any period of rainy weather that may occur. From here the clay is carried by a system of endless belt conveyors and elevators through automatic machinery which grinds, screens and tempers it, finally depositing it in bins above the presses, which are to form it into brick. From these bins it drops by gravity down a chute into the presses. These are of two types, the mold presses which shape each individual brick separately under enormous pressure, and the wire cut press in which the continuous column of compressed clay forced from the orifice of the machine is automatically sliced into brick, twenty at a clip. Of the first type of machine there are four in use, two of six molds each and two of four. These are used for making the better grades of pressed brick and their combined capacity is 110,000 brick per day. Of the wire cut type there is but one machine in use, but it is a hustler, turning out approximately 100,000 common brick per day. In the new kiln, where the common brick are made, the handling of the brick by hand is all but eliminated. This new kiln was built late in 1907, but was not put into service until the summer of 1908. It is an immense affair, 1160 feet in length, including the storage space, and 110 feet wide. It is what is called an open-top, continuous kiln, and was built from designs original with Mr. J. P. Cahoon, manager of the company. Its capacity is 4,000,000 brick. It consists of a double row of kiln chambers and over each row travels a huge electric crane which picks up 2000 brick at a time and gently deposits them either in the drying department, in a kiln chamber for firing, in the storage space, or in the railroad car for shipping, as may be desired. The brick are handled in crates and the breakage is less than it would be by hand, while the saving in labor can hardly be estimated. Another feature of the new kiln is that it has no stack, there being substituted for it to create the necessary draft, an enormous fan, driven by a fifty-five horse-power electric motor.

One of the Plants, Salt Lake Pressed Brick Company

The finest pressed brick are burned in the Kessler kilns, six in number and holding about half a million brick. These brick are burned from twenty-two to thirty days and are heated to a white heat. There is one Hoffman continuous kiln having twenty-two chambers and a capacity of 700,000 brick, and one tunnel continuous kiln with eighteen chambers and a capacity of 550,000. The aggregate capacity of all the kilns is 5,750,000 brick, or 220,000 for every working day, the time required in drying, burning and cooling the brick being about thirty days. In other words, in thirty days from the time a brick is molded it is ready for the market.

A continuous kiln is one in which the fire is burning all the time. It consists of a series of connected chambers arranged either in the form of an oval or in two parallel rows, and the fire passes slowly from chamber to chamber, so that some chambers are being filled, others are burning and others are being emptied, all at the same time. This system economizes fuel, and this economy is carried further by utilizing the waste heat from the burning chambers in drying the freshly molded brick. Crushed coal, or slack, is used for fuel and is fed into the kilns through small holes in the top, about a teacupful being put into each hole every half hour. An intense, even heat, that can be regulated perfectly is thus secured and maintained as long as desired. As they come from the kiln all brick except the common are sorted, or shaded as it is called, to secure absolute uniformity of color and quality. Certain red clay produces the red brick, other clay produces the white brick, and the color is also somewhat affected by differences in burning.

The company employs about 200 men and has $30,000 invested in teams engaged mainly in delivering brick throughout Salt Lake City. A roomy, convenient and up-to-date brick office building is now under construction and will be ready for occupancy in a few weeks. A down-town office is maintained at 126 Main Street, where an interesting display of the products of the factory may be seen. John P. Cahoon is president and manager of the company; George Curley, vice-president; Wm. S. Simkins, treasurer.


Source: Sketches of the Inter-Mountain States, Utah, Idaho and Nevada, Published by The Salt Lake Tribune, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1909 



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