Life Span: 1835-Present
Location: Throughout Chicago
History of Chicago, Volume I, A. T. Andreas, 1884
In the spring of 1833, Tyler K. Blodgett established a brick-yard, on the North Side, not far from the river bank, between Dearborn and Clark streets. He engaged Henry S. Lampman, then of Ann Arbor, as a workman. As Mr. Blodgett operated the first brick-yard in the city, so Mr. Lampman was undoubtedly the first brickmaker. If any brick were manufactured in Cook County before then it is not known. From this yard came the brick for the first building constructed of this material dwelling house of Mr. Blodgett, afterward occupied and added to by Colonel M. E. Stearns. The structure was located across the river, opposite this yard, and was originally a one-and-a-half story building, twenty feet square.
Chicago Evening Post, December 20, 1867
The Triumph of Machinery.
During the past year it has frequently been our lot to call attention to the various inventions for the purpose of facilitating and improving the manufacture of brick. Many of these machines work very finely in the shape of models, but few of them have the advantage of practical tests. Among these few the “Monitor,: patented by Messrs. Meltier Nye & A. J. Knisely, of this city, is deserving of front rank. This machine is used in the extensive yard of Mr. Knisely, and has been for many months past. It is capable, as proven by its everyday work and numerous public trials, of turning out from thirty to thirty-five thousand first class bricks per day. It is so arranged as to detect at once the presence of a stone or any injurious substance in the clay, and will stop whenever such foreign material is found. Mr. Knisely is one of the oldest brick makers in Chicago and one of the heaviest, and this machine is the result of several years’ practical observation and experiment by men who thoroughly understood the requirements of the business. The demand for them has become very great, but there are still large sections of country nothing but the old hand process is carried on. In such places the attention of brick makers should be directed to this machine. It is cheap, very durable, and will do the work very well. For an investment of a few hundred dollars they can save a great amount of manual labor, and repay their investment two or three times a year. They need nothing more than the fact that the machine is durable, as represented, and will easily make thirty-five thousand per day, to examine the merits for themselves, and if they once do that, they are sure to be satisfied and make the purchase. Mr. Knisely’s office is at No. 3 Otis Block, Chicago, and we cannot give makers a better piece of advice than to call on or address him on the subject.
Anecdote from “The Great Conflagration. Chicago: Its Past, Present and Future,” James W. Sheahan and George P. Upton, Associate Editors of The Chicago Daily Tribune, 1871
Chicago Tribune, November 29, 1871
Since the fire the people of Chicago have been greatly prejudiced in favor of brick as a building as a building material. After the passage of the new fire ordnance, which premises, with all its modifications, to be sufficiently stringent that prejudice will be materially strengthened. Brick burned in the intensity of heat of the great fire, but with a difference. The sand of a great number was vitrified, but others came out of the furnace entire, or in pieces, which are already doing service in the walls of new buildings. For two or three years past Chicago has annually consumed for building purposes from 100,000,000 to 125,000,000 of brick. The consumption of brick will be five or six times greater the coming season than that of any previous year. Nearly all of the common brick used in Chicago have been made in the immediate vicinity of the city. The capacity of the yards can be increased possibly to 200,000,000.
The manufacture of bricks is not without general and historic interest. Bricks have been used from time immemorial in the erection of buildings. Recent ages have improved on the old methods of their manufacture, which can hardly be reckoned among the lost arts. To make the clay cohere it is not now found necessary to use straw, the absence of which increased the hardship Israeitish bondage in Egypt, and caused much Hebrew lamentation.
The material for the making of brick is abundant in the vicinity of this city. Just below the surface of the flat prairie on which the metropolis is built, is a bed of clay that is coextensive with the prairie and, of course, inexhaustible. Hitherto the extension of the dockage of the city has supplied the yards with nearly all the material they needed. If a lumber dealer wanted a slip made, all he needed to do was to advertise the fact, and the necessary excavation was made by a firm of individuals who used the clay taken out in the manufacture of brick. Chicago brick are severely criticized by connoisseurs. In the first place, they are not handsome. That must be conceded. In the second place, they contain a certain amount of lime, which sometimes slakes after they are placed in the walls, and occasion unseemly rents and fissures. This last objection can urges only in exceptional instances. It is said that the bricks made in the South Branch contain a much smaller percentage of lime than those made on the North Side, and that those made on the North Side, beyond Fullerton avenue, are less faulty than the others of that locality. With all their exceptional faults, it may still be said that for common purposes the Chicago brick are excelled by those of few regions as regards durability. The pressed brick made here are said not to be fine specimens of that branch of the industry.
Nearly all the yards in the city are along the North Branch and South Branch of the Chicago River. The following yards are located on the
All these yards use brick moulding machines of some of the numerous patents now before the public. The machines average about the same capacity, which is about 18,500 brick per day. They all knead the clay, and mould it doing away with the old wheel, and the slow methods of shaping. Bricks cannot be made when the nights are freezing; consequently the first banking of bricks cannot be turned on until sometime in May, and operations must cease by the 1st of November, and sometimes earlier.
For some years past brick-making has not been profitable in Chicago, and the manufactures have had a hard time. Prices have ruled from $6 and $6.25 to $7 per thousand, at which figures there was very little money in the business. The competition has been excessive, and persons, for various reasons, being obliged to part with their stock have let it go at ruinous rates. Last season an effort was made by owners of brick-yards to combine for the purpose of keeping up the rates, but the effort was a failure. An attempt to agree to diminish the number manufactured proved equally futile. Now the brickmakers purpose to reimburse themselves, the prices being greatly enhanced, and the prospective supply being so limited. The present modest demand is $14—an exaggerated rate, which cannot be maintained after the season opens again.
If builders cannot obtain brick made in the city, it is of prime importance that they should be obliged to go no further than is absolutely necessary beyond the city limits. All the brick needed for the reconstruction of Chicago can be easily obtained by those who who have purses of sufficient length. The nearest places to this city where bricks are now made, are Willow-Spring, Jefferson, Niles, Winnetka, Waukegan, McHenry, Dunton, and Desplaines, all of which villages are within a radius of a few miles of us. From these villages transportation will not add materially to the cost of the article. In Wisconsin bricks are made all the way from Racine and Sheboygan. Those of Milwaukee have the best reputation, being of regulation size, durable, and of handsome color. The other Wisconsin brick are of smaller size, and of less handsome appearance. The light-colored brick will no doubt be inn great demand either for trimming or for entire fronts of buildings.
Brick are also made to a greater or less extent in every town and village in the adjoining States. Agents from various places have been here with their own wares, and have met with some success in selling them, although the supply on hand here happened to be enough for the immediate demand. Wisconsin brick could be obtained here last week for a little more than the price asked for Chicago brick.
For fronts of buildings, considerable pressed brick will doubtless come from New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore, that of the two cities last mentioned being the best. The cost here is $60. A beautiful enameled brick from Philadelphia is offered for $70 per thousand, suitable for rotundas and interior walls where exposed.
Nearly all the bricks made at a distance must come by rail, and railroad transportation is expensive. Therefore, the Chicago rebuilders desire that the manufacture in this vicinity, where material is abundant, should be indefinitely increased.
COST OF MACHINERY, ETC.
The writer has been at the trouble to compile some figures in regard to the expenditures incidental to the commencement of the business of brick manufacture, which may be of interest to those interested in money getting. The calculation is designed for a yard capable of making 4,000,000,000 of brick in the season. The estimated expenditures are liberal:
Receipts: Sale of first kiln (400,000) at $10 per thousand, $4,000, from which time it would pay current expenses, and a handsome profit. A liberal estimate of expenditures for the season would be $27,000.
Four million bricks at $10 per thousand (a low figure), would be $40,000, which would leave a balance of profit almost equal to the original expenditure. A person who has capital at his command, which he desires to turn over two or three times in the next two seasons, will do well to seek an eligible site for a brick-yard in Chicago or its immediate vicinity, make all needful preparations during the cold weather, and be ready to commence business as soon a the season opens.
Brick, May 1, 1900
Large Brick Combine in Chicago
In the completion and incorporation of the Illinois Brick Co., Chicago, the amalgamation of all the most important brickmaking interests in Cook County has been accomplished. On the last day of March this concern filed, through William H. Weckler, a certificate to increase its capital stock at Springfield, Ill. In the evening of the same day 36 brick manufacturers met in the Chamber of Commerce and made the formal reorganization of the company, the new capital stock of which is $9,000,000. The company is an Illinois corporation exclusively and is to devote its efforts to supplying the Chicago market. It has bought out the entire plants oi the following concerns: Frank Alsip, Shermerville; Shermerville Brick Co.; Evanston Brick Co.; Lill Brothers; B. F. Weber; Jef ferson Brick Co.; H. J. Lutter; Wolf & Blaul; Riemer Labahn & Kuester; John F. Becker; Harms, Schlake Brick Co.; A. Waudroifc & Co.; Julius Hundrieser; Weckler Brick Co.; Kuester & Thurow; Robinson Brick Co.; John Busse; Michael Myers; John Busse & Sons; Alsip Brick Co.; Wahl Brothers; Weckler-Prussing Brick Co.; Purington-Kimbell Brick Co. (Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific R. R.; Purington-Kimbell Brick Co. (Illinois Central R. R.); Hayt & Alsip Co.; Gray, Tuthill & Co.; Philip Lichtenstadt; Harland Brick Co.; Purington Brick Co.; Nelson A. Steele; Thomas Moulding Co.
Besides these 31 concerns, the equipments of the following five were also bought out: William Rohan; Koertz & Heier; William Mensching; August Triebull; and Busch & Amman.
The offices of the new organization are in rooms 617, 618, and 619 Chamber of Commerce Building, Chicago. The officers are: Leon ard H. Harland, president; D. V. Purington, vice-president; William E. Schlake, secretary; C. D. B. Howell, treasurer; and Charles B. Ver Nooy, auditor. The directors are: Thomas C. Moulding, D. V. Purington, Charles Harms, William H. Weckler, John H. Gray, Leonard H. Harland, Henry Busse, F. W. Labahn, W. H. Alsip, B. F. Weber, Louis Riemer.
The combination of all the Cook County brick concerns has been under discussion since last June. The condition of the market left many of the smaller firms without contracts and it became necessary for mutual protection to prepare to meet the exigencies of the future. It was found impossible to bring Illinois brick manufacturers outside of Chicago into the organization; so the Cook County manufacturers concluded that with a satisfactory organization there was enough of them to protect one another. It required time for the movement to obtain headway, but the majority of the yards finally gave their indorsements and the organization was perfected.
Encyclopedia of Biography of Illinois, Volume III, 1902
LEONARD H. HARLAND.
Leonard Henry Harland, president of the Illinois Brick Company, of Chicago, and one of the best known and most successful brick manufacturers in the West, is a native of Yorkshire, England. He was born near the town of Ripon, April 4, 1843, being the son of William and Isabella (Chesborough) Harland. He attended the local schools of his native place until he was fourteen years of age, when the circumstances of the family were such that young Leonard was compelled to leave school and face the problem of making his own way in the world. Though young in years he was a sturdy lad and anxious to improve his condition. Having an elder brother who had come to America two years pre viously and who was then living in Chicago, Leonard determined to join him. Fortunately, Mr. William Lill, one of the early business men of Chicago, was returning from a visit to his old home in
England, and the brother in Chicago arranged for Leonard to travel in company with Mr. Lill. Like thousands of other lads leaving the mother country to seek a home across the sea, he had a very vague idea of the great world beyond.
But he had already acquired habits of industry and frugality which are so essential to success, and, arriving in Chicago in September, 1857, he immediately secured employment in the brickyard of his brother, Edward Harland. Beginning thus humbly by unremitting toil and constant effort he learned every detail of the business and laid firmly the foundation of his future successes. Being advanced from time to time as he gained in knowledge and experience, he remained in his brother’s employ until the latter sold out and joined the throng of emigrants to the gold fields of Colorado in 1859. Edward Harland was one of the first brick manufacturers of Chicago, having been established as early as 1855. He imported from Ripon, England, in 1858, a machine for the manufacture of drain tile, which was undoubtedly the first one installed in the State of Illinois. He established a brickyard and tile factory at Joliet Mound, in Will county, which he sold when he went West. Leonard H. remained with the purchaser of the plant and superintended the business for about two years. He then decided to try his fortunes as a tiller of the soil. He first rented lands in Will county with so successful an outcome that he invested his earnings in a farm of his own. This he conducted about nine years when he sold his property and returned to Chicago, in the spring of 1872, immediately after the great fire in that city. About 1861 his brother Edward had returned from Colorado and during the intervening years had established several brickyards in Chicago and vicinity. In the rebuilding of the city, which had already begun, the brothers were quick to see their opportunity.
They were both practical menand thoroughly conversant with brick manufacturing in all its branches. With their combined capital the business was enlarged and conducted under the firm name of E. & L. H. Harland until 1892, and for several years they were the largest manufacturers of brick in Chicago, if not in the entire West. About the year 1892 the business was incorporated as the Harland Brick Company, and Mr. Harland continued in the active management of the concern until 1900, when he gradually retired. The brick industry had become financially demoralized owing to overproduction. the capacity for production being at least threefold greater than the demand. This state of affairs was largely due to the over-stimulation caused by the World‘s Fair, which resulted in such keen com petition that many of the firms engaged in the business were on the verge of bankruptcy.
Mr. Harland thoroughly understood the situation and saw that something must be done to prevent a general demoralization of the trade and preserve the business-life of the strongest and fittest. Looking to this end he organized the Cook County Brick Company, composed of representatives of some thirty-seven firms, which comprised every brick-making concern except one in the county. Of this combination Mr. Harland was the secretary and general manager. After three years of phenomenal business under his management be de cided to organize the industry of the county on a still more permanent basis. and in the winter of 1900 succeeded in organizing the Illinois Brick Company. This he did by purchasing outright the plants and good will of over thirty different firms and corporations. all located in Cook county and representing about eighty-five per cent of its total capacity in the line of brick manufacturing. The capital stock of the corporation thus formed is $9,000,000, and Mr. Harland has served as president from its first organization. Though many opportunities have been open to him to engage in other financial enterprises he has been a firm believer in concentration of purpose and effort, and, following that inclination, practically all his business life has been devoted to brick manufacturing.
The only exception was about the year 1890, when he purchased an interest in a grain elevator in Chicago, became a member of the Board of Trade, and organized the Harland & Head Elevator Company. This exception served to prove the rule he had adhered to so closely—“one thing at a time, and that all the time, brings success.” He soon became tired of the grain business, disposed of his interests and retired from the Board of Trade. Though an Englishman by birth, Mr. Harland many years ago renounced his allegiance to the mother country and has been an enthusiastic and loyal supporter of American principles and institutions. He is a stanch Republican in politics, but has never been a candidate for any political office. He has for many years been a member of the Masonic fraternity and a Knight Templar.
In September, 1860, Mr. Harland was married to Miss Mary Smith, born at Joliet, Illinois, and the daughter of the late Andrew Smith, a pioneer settler of Will county, Illinois. Mrs. Harland died October 25, 1900, leaving five children, viz.: Lydia O., wife of Benjamin P. George, of Ottumwa, Iowa; Henrietta H., wife of Lucius A. Calkins, of Chicago; Elizabeth 1., wife of Hudson L. Henson, of Chicago; Anna M., wife of Samuel P. Avery, of Boston, and Charles E. Harland, a resident of Chicago, who married Miss Alice Wilson, of New Richmond, Ohio.
Chicago Tribune, November 16, 1910