|Early Brickmaking in the Colonies by Nat Ewan|
This is a digital version of an old, uncopyrighted pamplet issued by the Camden County Historical Society. First published in the West Jersey Press, it was re-issued by the Society in 1970. Nat Ewan was a amn of many talents. He took photographs for the Historic American buildings Survey, corrected Henry Beck and as we see below, worked to excorise some of the myths that had crept into our local and regional history.
Please note that there has been a format change when this article was moved to the web. Most, though not all hypenations are artifacts from the original double coumb form. Also, the OCR procress may have introduced some errors into the text that went uncaught by the spellchecker. With those caveats in mind, read and enjoy.
CAMDEN COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY
Reprinted July, 1970
A Common Fallacy Corrected
By N. R. EWAN
In collecting information of early American houses, one is impressed with the almost universal assumption that the bricks used in their construction were made in England. So prevalent is this belief that many owners of these ancient buildings seem to take special pride in perpetuating and passing the impression along to posterity. With better grace and infinitely more patriotism they might be equally ambitious in advertising the fact that the bricks were made right here in America.
Authoritative writers, who base their conclusions on extensive research, generally agree that very few buildings of any kind, in the Colonies were made of imported brick. Unfortunately, many authors of books on Colonial architecture, who otherwise have done much to visualize the excellence of our early homes, continue to be victims of this foreign brick fallacy and in their writings still refer to our early dependence on English or Dutch brick-makers. If one questions the correctness of such statements by these authors, the inquiry invariably discloses that the source of their misinformation goes no further than traditional hearsay. Some base their alibi on the questionable fact that only by resorting to foreign brick-yards, can be found particular sizes and colorings of bricks to duplicate restoration or repairs to our ancient structures. With but a very few exceptions, the pioneer brick houses in New Amsterdam (New York) and vicinity were built of Hudson river clay, yet prominent writers indicate their Dutch origin by proclaiming that only in Holland can we find their duplicates.
In all fairness, however, one may suggest the inference that this persistent tradition has come down to this generation through a gradual evolution of fact to fancy. In 1683, regulatory laws were passed by the General Assembly of New Jersey, which fixed a size of 9'/2 x 42 x 24 inches for common brick. This conformed to the regulation English made product and closely matches our present brick size. It is quite plausible in time, these legalized bricks became known in trade circles as "English brick," describing a type rather than a literally made-in-England product, but which meaning in the confusion of later generations was accepted as genuinely imported brick. The glazed ornamentation of our early fire-places were correctly known as "Dutch Tiles," but the term still persists in our modern homemade reproductions.
The first habitations in the new world were extemporized caves and the cycle of living conditions soon passed from this crude shelter to rough log huts, then to hand-hewed timber houses, framed dwellings, and, in quick sequence, to brick buildings. Stone was also, in early use particularly in foundation walls. Cellars were not common in pioneer days.
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from the mother country becomes remote, if we consider shipping conditions of Colonization days. The ancient sailing ships of but 200 to 300 tons capacity, required many weary weeks in crossing and on their western trips were always overburdened with passengers and freight cargoes made up of goods indispensable to the existence of the new settlers. How improbable it would be that these vital necessities would be relegated to an embargo in favor of loading the small ships with common brick, which could be and were made here at a fraction of the cost of bringing them overseas. Little credence can be given to the many statements which claim the bricks were brought over "in ballast." The heavily loaded vessels needed no further weight than their own essential cargoes to keep them stable on the ocean voyage. Certainly, if bricks were ever shipped on these primitive boats, their value as ballast could have been used to better advantage on the eastern or "home" sailings, when few exports were being returned to Britain.
The very few houses accredited as being built of imported brick were always located near sea ports and generally owned by wealthy vessel operators, who were more or less independent of usual sources of supply and who could afford to indulge their tastes for the native home atmosphere even in building bricks. The early Friends Meeting Houses do not escape this "made-in-England" branding, but a simple calculation of weight-values would not only show the impracticability of requiring so much vessel tonnage, but, also, the impossibility of hauling the bricks over impassible and almost uncharted trails to distant interior points, where most of these old time religious centers were located. We also surmise that the pioneer Quakers were much to frugal to sanction the prohibitory cost of imported materials.
Undoubtedly minor shipments of English brick were occasionally brought over to the Colonies, but these insignificant lots consisted of special ornamental bricks of particular design used in ornamentation of fire places, or chimney breasts, and were far from being of commercial importance.
Ancient plantations, especially in this section of New Jersey, still show a well defined pit formation, indicating the
We must recall that wheeled vehicles for heavy transportation were almost unknown in the seventeenth century, and the few roads were but winding paths which accommodated nothing more pretentious than a lone horse and rider, generally loaded with a carefully balanced bag of grain, on his way to the primitive grist mill. Yet some writers would have us believe that untold tons of English-made bricks were built in our ancient houses, which would have had to have been carried no doubt, from sea ports in the capacious saddle bags of these travelers.
The first brick kilns were very limited in capacity and by reason of the obvious (Difficulties' of transportation, served the building wants of but a small community. We must attribute the New Jersey law of 1683, on the standardization of bricks, with its drastic penalties, to the lack of uniformity, both in size and quality of brick manufactured in these isolated kilns. Council passed the Act providing that common bricks must be made in iron-shod moulds of standard size, and "well and merchantably burned." The Burlington Court appointed Richard Fenimore and € Francis Collins as brick inspectors, with authority to view all bricks made in the Western Province of New Jersey and report all violations of the law. Furthermore they were expected to break up bricks which failed to meet legal requirements and return the names of makers to the Court for fine.
Up until about 1790, many bricks were made with a glazed end or side which were placed in walls in ornamental designs. Many houses in South Jersey,
EARLY BRICKMAKING IN THE COLONIES 3
following the Swedish custom, show intricate designs, sometimes covering the whole end section and with the owners' initials and dated, placed in the upper levels. The strictly English settlements, however, confined the glazed bricks to a place in the walls which faced a road and spaced at more or less regular intervals, thus breaking up the monotonous facing of plain surface bricks. They were also used to outline the usual initials of the owner and his wife and the (late. These bricks were glazed by placing them in the hottest part of the kiln fires which intense heat fused, or semi-melted the surface.
The few seventeenth century houses still standing certainly indicate the weatherable qualities of our ancient brick and while they are less uniform and smooth than modern bricks, yet they have covered the span of 250 years in excellent condition.
Not only were the old time bricks burned to an extreme hardness, which resulted in their great durability, but the lime mortar used seems equally lasting. Lime came from two sources, natural stone-lime and the less desirable grade, made from the burning of oyster shells. Mortar placed between bricks in many houses built before 1750, shows so little disintegration that the trowel marks of the old time masons remain sharp and clear.
Let us consider some observations from writers, modern and ancient, on this subject. According to J. Leander Bishop in "History of American Manufacturers"
"The first Bricks made in the Anglican Colonies, however, were made in Virginia, as early as 1612, during the administration of Sir. Thomas Gates." After the colonists had removed to a healthier place, four score miles up the river from Jamestown, "the spademen fell to digging, the brickmen burnt their bricks, the company cut down wood, the carpenters fell to squaring, the sawyer to sawing, the soldier to fortifying, and every man to somewhat. And to answer the first objection for wholesome lodging here, they have built competent and decent houses, the first story all of bricks that every man may have his lodging and dwelling place apart by himselfe." * * * * * * "In 1649, the Colony had lime, it was said,
"In New York, during the Dutch rule, buildings. wholly or in part of Bricks imported from Holland, where the manufacture has long existed in great perfection, early predominated. The yellow color of the bricks, and the style of architecture adopted, gave to New Amsterdam the unmistakable features of a Dutch town." * * * * * * * * "The manufacture of Bricks was commenced upon the island during the administration of the last Governor Stuyvesant. Previous to his time, the town, wholly absorbed in the Indian fur trade, had made little progress in mechanical industry, ********,, 'The price of imported Holland Bricks, was in 1661, £4, 16s per thousand, payable in Beaver skins. At this date (1664), there were, however, several brick and tile manufactories in the Province. The earliest and largest of these appear to have been at Fort Orange, or in its neighborhood. The private Colony of Mr. VanRennselear, below Albany, sustained by the ample wealth of its proprietor, and the more varied industry of its colonists, seems to have engaged in Brick-making, before the settlers on Manhattan. The account books of the Patroon show that yellow bricks, the product of the Colony, sold between the years 1630 and 1646, for fifteen forms the thousand.' * * * * * * * 'Bricks were at this period sometimes sent from the neighborhood of Fort Orange, to the Dutch Colony on the Delaware, where brick and stone
4 EARLY BRICKMAKING IN THE COLONIES
were scarce, although they appear to have been made there in 1656." * * * "Bricks, pan-tyles, etc., paid in 1687, a duty on importation of forty shillings on the hundred pounds' worth." * * * "In the year 1742, Joseph Paulding leased a part of the commons, now the City Park, where he established a large brickyard."
Christopher Ward, in his book "The Dutch and Swedes on the Delaware, 1609-1664," notes that:
"The kettles one may understand were for the Indian trade, but that a colony now six years old, in a land where clay was to be had for the digging and bricks for the burning, should have to freight six thousand bricks across three thousand miles of ocean-that seems to need justification." (Page 116).
Ward further continues:
Ward in writing about conditions existing at New Amstel (New Castle), Delaware, which was under the Dutch in 1656, says:
"With inexhaustible beds of clay close by they repeatedly sent to Fort Orange (Albany, N. Y.) for cargoes of bricks, until in 1659, Cornelis Herperts de Jager established a brick-kiln." (Page 259).
Frank H. Stewart, the noted authority on Gloucester County (N. J.) history, has made an extensive research on the English brick tradition and says that
"One of the erroneous statements often repeated, is that concerning houses said to have been built of imported bricks. I doubt very much if there is a single house still standing (1919) in West Jersey made of imported bricks. I go still further and say that I do not believe that a house was ever built in West Jersey with imported bricks from England, Holland or any other place. In the earliest settlements, bricks were easily made and obtainable along the shores of the Delaware, and there was plenty of evidence that conclusively proves that such was the case."
"John Harding, a brick maker, was in Salem as early as 1687. William Higgins, brick maker, was brought to Jersey as an indentured servant by Gov. Edward Byllinge and owned land in Gloucester County in 1687. John Ingram, of Burlington County, was brick maker there prior to 1690."
"When ships were small and it took months of time for them to sail across the ocean and there was no real necessity for imported bricks, a little reflection will show the foolishness and excessive cost of brick importations. If bricks were imported it would be for ornamentation rather than service."
Wise and Beidleman in their splendid book "Colonial Architecture for Those About to Build," says:
"At the end of the century after Penn's arrival four-fifths of the houses in Philadelphia were of brick. Manifestly the demand for the material at such an active outset of substantial building here would have
EARLY BRICKMAKING IN THE COLONIES 5
over-taxed any primitive equipment for producing them. But the Dutch at New Amsterdam were active brickmakers, and there are records of bricks being sent from there to the South (Delaware) River. When the handfuls of Colonists lay widely separated, and mere distance, not to mention other obstacles, was a barrier to trade between them, it would have been natural for the South River folk to have called these bricks imported, as, in the sense of those days, they were. It is doubtful if there are a half dozen Colonial buildings existing today, whose bricks, it can he said with certainty, were brought from England or the Continent." (Page 17-18.)
In the papers of Jonathan Dickinson, a noted merchant in Philadelphia in the latter part of the seventeenth century and an early mayor of the city, is the following comment oil this subject:
"A considerable quantity of the best bricks on the Continent made near this city (Philadelphia) and limestone in quantity in some parts, which prompts people to make substantial buildings, both in brick and stone. We have been regulating the pavements in our streets, the foot way with bricks and the cart ways with stone, and this with buildings have made bricks so scarce that the inhabitants would go to the kilns and there strive for them at 28 per mill : that is and will be the price here."
Harold Gillingham in a very well written and convincing article which appeared in the Peuusylz'an ía Ma oaziue of History and Biography, Vol. LIII (1929), presents a complete refutation of the English brick tradition, so far as it relates to Pennsylvania and the same reasoning will apply to the other colonies. He says:
"The art of brickmaking was not unknown to the first settlers on the shores of the Delaware, as they came from countries where bricks had been in use for hundreds of years. The Babylonians made bricks 6000 years ago and the knowledge of the process soon traveled westward throughout Europe. William Penn wrote in 1685 that the colonists
"In 1690, John Goodson wrote to his friends, John & S. Drew that 'They Build all with Stone and Brick now, except the very meanest Sort of People, which Build framed Houses with Timber.' In the same letter, Goodson says 'We have now * * * Four Brick-makers, with Brick-kills.' And that was in 1690."
"If all of the old buildings built before 1710 had been constructed of imported bricks, it would have kept a large fleet of vessels, small as they were at the time, constantly busy carrying cargoes of bricks only; and how would the colonists with their personal effects, and all of that antique 'furniture that came over in the Welcome with William Penn, have reached these shores'? * * * * Ill addition, think of the inconvenience and cost of the inland transportation of bricks needed to build the most modest dwelling of the period, when there were no roads to speak of. Think of hauling bricks at least 25 miles from the Delaware river to build the Keith mansion at Horsham, or the School at WestTown in Chester County."
"As brickmaking had been carried oil in the other English colonies at least fifty years before the arrival of Penn, and as the making thereof is not a complicated process, it is quite proper to assume that our first citizens soon set about producing these useful articles for the building of their permanent buildings."
"In his letter to William Penn of the 6th. mo. 3rd., 1685, Robert Turner says, 'Thomas Smith and Daniel Pege (Pegg, after whom Pegg's Run was named) are Partners, and set to making Bricks this Year, and they are very good.' He also mentions the two brick-makers having a double brick house and cellars, which would seem to indicate they were the first brickmakers in the city."
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"On the 16th of the 11th ma. 1687/8, RANDALL SPAKEMAN was granted '10 acres in the pro. Land at the N. End of the Town of Philadelphia, not discommoding the proprietors Seating, either on Delaware or Schuylkill side, to hold it for 3 years certain, afterwards but yearly, to make brick on, and to pay 5000 bricks p. Annum, and to cut down no Timber Trees.' On the 14th. of 12th. mo. 1690/1 he appealed to the Commissioners to grant him 'Liberty to Cut Wood on the proprietor's Land for the next Summer's work for burning of bricks.' Owing to the great rent lie paid, of 5000 bricks per annum, the request was granted for one year."
"Another seventeenth century brickmaker comes to the attention of the reader under date of the 23rd. of 6 ma. (August) 1690, when Penn's Commissioners granted unto JOSEPH BROWN, brickmaker, 22 acres of land adjacent to that of William Rawle and Samuel Carpenter for 'ffifte one years from the first day of the third mo. (May) 1684, at twenty two shillings lawful money of England' per acre. * * * * * * * In the minutes of the meeting of lye 20 of 10 her 1690' one reads 'Liberty was given to Jos. Brown to cut 100 cords of wood for the burning of bricks, but no white oaks.'"
"That the houses erected here (Philadelphia) between 1680 and 1725 were constructed of these so called imported bricks, is undoubtedly not substantiated by evidence. This statement may shatter some traditions regarding old buildings in this country, but the facts speak for themselves."
Peter Kalm, the Swedish traveler, who visited America in 1748-49, says in his "Travels in America" that
Governor Rising in his letter of July 13, 1654, to the newly formed Swedish Commercial College, into whose hands the direction of the affairs of New Sweden had recently been placed, says:
"Of blacksmiths (aside from gunsmiths) we have enough for our needs, as well as cordwainers and leatherdressers, tailors, skinners, sword-makers, glass makers, masons, house-carpenters, etc. But we need pottery makers, brick-makers, limeburners, cabinetmakers, woodencasin makers and wooden-plate turners, shoemakers and tanners."
In a letter*, dated at Christina, New Sweden, June 14, 1655, Governor Rising says
"Skilled workmen would be very useful to us, especially the following which are now needed-salt petermakers and powder-makers, shipcarpenters and house-carpenters, those who understand how to cut all kinds of timber (yet we expect to obtain them best from New England), cabinet-makers, brick-makers, potters (for here is very beautiful clay of every kind, red as bolus [ ?], white to whitewash houses with, as good as lime, yellow, blue, etc.), and clay workers, millwrights, gardiners, and hop-garden masters, etc., which I have enumerated before."
In "The Present State of the Colony of West-Jersey," a pamphlet originally published in 1681 and re-printed in Albert Cook Myers' "Narratives of Early Pennsylvania, West New Jersey and Delaware, 1630-1707,"* it is said:
"Their Houses are some Built of Brick, some of Timber, Plaister'd and Ceil'd, as in England: So that
*These letters are given in Albert Cook Myers' 'Narratives of Early Pennsylvania, West New Jersey and Delaware." where they appear for the first time in English.
EARLY BRICKMAKING IN THE COLONIES 7
they have Materials within the Country, to set Themselves at work, and to make all manlier of Conveniency for Humane Life."
Gabriel Thomas in his "An Account of Pennsylvania and New Jersey," published in 1698, refers to brickmakers both in the city of Philadelphia and in Burlington, N. J. He further says:
"Brick-Makers have Twenty shillings per Thousand for their Bricks at the Kiln. (p. 41.) "It (Burlington) is become a very famous Town, having a great many stately Brick-Houses in it."
'Their are many Fair and Great Brick Houses on the outside of the Town which the Gentry have built for their Countrey Houses, besides the Great and Stately Palace of John Tateham Esq which is pleasantly situated on the north side of the Town."
Thompson Wescott says in "The Historic Mansions and Buildings of Philadelphia." (p. 15)
"Concerning the bricks which form the walls, it is proper to allude to the prevalence of stories which frequently assume, in the case of old buildings, 'the bricks were brought from England.' No doubt there have been such houses in America, but the probability is that the greater number of mansions to which distinction has been assigned were constructed entirely from bricks manufactured in this country. * * * 'There was a brickmaker in the neighborhood, before the city (Philadelphia) was laid out, in the person of Daniel Pegg.' * * * 'The soil furnished the very best material for bricks, and the presence of brickmakers was spoken of at a very early period. Penn in a letter dated July, 1683, says, 'I have here the canoe of one tree yt fetches four tunns of bricks,' which shows that bricks were a common article of transport, some of them being probably brought from Burlington in West Jersey, an older place than Philadelphia. Some might have come from Chester or New Castle. In 'A Further Account of Pennsylvania,' published in 1685, Penn said, 'Divers brickeries going on,
Sidney G. Fisher in "The Quaker Colonies," page 22, says:
"Many of the ships carried the frames of houses ready to be put together. But substantial people of this sort demanded for the most part houses of brick with stone cellars. Fortunately both brick clay and stone were readily obtainable in the neighborhood (Philadelphia), and whatever may have been the case with other Colonies, ships loaded with brick from England would find it little to their profit to touch at Philadelphia * * * * * * * * *
In "The Settlement at Raccoon and
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Swedesboro, N. J.," a pamphlet prepared by the late Rev. Edgar Campbell, the following quotation is taken from the writings of Dr. Nicholas Collin, Minister Extraordinary from Sweden,
"In the autumn of the year 1783 a contract was made with Mr. Felix Fisher for the necessary quantity of bricks, to be made and delivered at the rate of one pound seventeen shil 6d per thousand. ($9.37'/2 in our money, or about $18.50 in present value of money)." * * * * * *
'As the season advanced the brickmakers began their work, and continued til late in the autumn. The mason proceeded as the materials were furnished. * * * * * * *
Heavy rains in the late months spoiled a considerable quantity of bricks already hauled to the church. The approach of winter and want of money permitted not the purchase of a new supply. It was therefore necessary to contrive small ovens for drying such as were tolerable. I was myself very busy at this work many cold mornings and evenings, by which I contracted a severe rheumatic disorder, which continued for a long time."
Charles S. Boyer, President of the Camden County Historical Society, in his brochure, "The Old Homes in Camden, New Jersey," published in 1920, makes the same error. In writing about the Kaighn House, he says, "This house, modeled after an English farm house, was built of bricks said to have been brought from England * * *
Of the old Joseph Cooper house which formerly stood at the head of North Third street, Camden, he says, "This house was built in 1788 of old English bricks, alternately red and white * * *€" Again this author says of the Samuel and Prudence Cooper house on Twenty-second street, East Camden, that "It is built of bricks, which are said to have been brought from England * *
This author has since admitted that these statements were based on nothing more than traditions and should never have had a place in this otherwise interesting little booklet.
In his "Rambles Through Old Highways and Byways of Camden. New Jersey," a pamphlet published by the Camden County Historical Society, Mr. Boyer, in writing about the old house still standing in Pyne Point Park, Camden, says:
"The two and one-half story structure at the north end was erected at a later date, but certainly prior to 1785. The basis for the latter statement is found in the fact that black bricks began to be used in Philadelphia and vicinity about 1700 and went out of fashion about 1785."
Watson's "Annals of Philadelphia," contains many references to early brick making in and around Philadelphia. Describing the Pennsbury estate, he quotes from a letter written by William Penn from England to James Harrison, his chief steward, under date of 11th of 5th month:
"I trust to provide myself with carpenters, husbandmen, brick layers and makers." Under date of 17th of 9th mo. 1685, Penn writes
Watson also quotes from the record books of Christ Church as follows
"April, 1709,-for 2250 bricks for the belfry"
In writing about the State House (Independence Hall), Watson says:
In "The Swedish Settlements on the Delaware, 1638-1664," Dr. Amandus Johnson says:
"Brick yards were common in Sweden during the first part of the seventeenth century and earlier. * * * * The colonists on the Delaware were therefore not unaccustomed to this industry." (Vol. I, p. 35.)
"The Walvis," commanded by Capt. Peter Hey'es, loaded with bricks, provisions, a large stock of cattle and twenty-eight colonists, said to have been Mennonites, arrived safely in the Delaware in the spring of 1631 and planted a colony on the banks of the Horn (or Hoere) Kill, naming it Swanendael." Dr. Johnson, on the authority of Gabriel Thomas and others, says "They built a brick house 'inside of palisades.' " [One may well question this statement in view of the number of bricks required (none being made there at that time) and having due consideration for the space needed for the cargo described]. (Vol. I, pp. 170-171.)
"Hindrickson was to be especially enjoined upon to engage some artisans, such as blacksmiths, shoemakers, carpenters, bricklayers and others, three or four of whom ought to he married, who should take their wives along to cook, make beer and wash for the people." (Vol. I, pp. 125-126.)
"Various improvements were made by the Dutch (during the period, 1656-1664, while the Swedish settlements on the Delaware, were under Dutch rule) which bettered the condition of the Swedes, bricks being made, roads improved, bridges built, fences constructed, overseers and tobacco inspectors appointed, etc." (Vol. II, p. 663.)
An interesting article under the caption of, "Masons' Materials of the Early Dutch Settlers," was published in "Building Economy," for February, 1928. From this we quote:
"Pioneer settlers in both New York and New Jersey, the frugal and far seeing Dutch and the equally conservative French Huguenots, both turned to mason materials in the building of their houses. This may have been a result of their familiarity with mason construction at home, and again it may have been easier to make brick even in the crude form of that day, than to hew and split lumber from the trees which surrounded their settlements on every hand. * * * * * * * * For the most, these walls were laid up with a mud or clay mortar, lime in that early day being both expensive and difficult to obtain. They were at least two feet in thickness, in the most cases furred on the inside
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the Dutch Colonists in Manhattan and those in Bergen County (New Jersey) with materials from which to build chimneys, fire places and those famous old Dutch ovens in which their baking was done." [Note that no claim is made of common brick being so imported.]
"One of these comes from the Kipp house, which was built shortly after 1666, near the present site of Hackensack. This house was burned to the ground in 1905, after 215 years of constant use with little repairs. * * * * * The brick in size is lx3x7 inches in length. Many of them are of a light yellow color and all are of uneven texture."
Peter Kalm, in "Travels in America" (Vol. II, pp. 30-33), from whom we have already quoted, writes of a peculiar instance where bricks were found under unusual conditions, thus
"It seems very probable, from the following observations, that long before the arrival of the Swedes, there have been Europeans in the province (New Jersey) ; and, in the sequel we shall give more confirmation of this opinion. The same old Moons Keen, whom I have already mentioned before, told me repeatedly, that on the arrival of the Swedes in the last century, and on their making a settlement, called Helfingburg on the banks of the Delaware, somewhat below the place where Salem is now situated; they found, at a depth of twenty feet, some wells inclosed with walls. This could not be the work of the native Americans, or Indians, as bricks were entirely unknown to them when the Europeans first settled here, at the end of the fifteenth century; and they still less knew how to make use of them. The wells were, at that time, on the land; but in such a place, on the banks of the Delaware, as is sometimes under water, and sometimes dry. But since, the ground has so washed away, that the wells are entirely covered by the river, and the water is seldom low enough to shew the wells. As the Swedes afterwards made new wells for themselves, at some distance from the former, they discovered, in the ground, some broken earthen vessels, and some en-
In "Colonial Roof Trees and Candle Ends," a pamphlet issued by the Salem (N. J.) County Historical Society, it is said on page 44, that:
"Fenwick's Colony is noted for its ancient brick houses. Both the builder and the inhabitants of these houses were interested in the quality and goodness of the material of which they were formed. The excellency of the bricks consisted chiefly in the case given to a longer time in drying and burning of the clay. The best way of ordering the fire, was, to make it gentle at first, and increase it by degrees, as the bricks grew harder. Good brick earth was plentiful."
Mrs. Marion Nicholl Rawson in "Candle Days," makes the following note:
"In 1792, Noah Webster wrote to his friend, Timothy Pickering, to ask for a recipe for making bricks, having in mind at the time the build-
EARLY BRICKMAKING IN THE COLONIES 11
ing of a State House at Hartford, and stating that Connecticut was sadly ignorant on the subject."
"He says: 'One moulder, one man to work the clay, and one to wheel to the tables, and a boy who bears off a single brick at a time, constitute a set who make two thousand bricks a day. This is a regular task.'
In a later book by Mrs. Rawson, "Sing Old Houses," considerable attention is given to this question. She says:
"It is always a surprising thing to hear people who are showing off their old houses, dwell with fervor upon the story that 'the brick in our chimneys was brought from England.' It is hard to understand why this should be a matter of pride. A far greater pride might better be shown when the bricks have been made on the farm or plantation, or in the neighborhood. Ships, especially to the South, where larger orders of household goods were constantly being brought over until the 1750's, probably had little need of brick for ballast. In the first English group which came to settle at Jamestown in 1607, there were bricklayers, and there was a brick house standing there by 1638. In Maryland, they were making brick before the middle of the 1600's and it is believed that no foreign brick went into any of the early Maryland homes. There may have been occasional clumpings of bricks from sailing vessels between Maine and Florida, but just why these dumpings should have taken on such a halo is a mystery."
Judge Henry C. Conrad in "History of the State of Delaware" (Vol. II, p. 510), says:
"The New Amstel [New Castle] also brought boards and bricks from Fort Orange, (Albany) New York, to build the fort and chimneys for the houses. * * * * * Bricks from Fort Orange were in constant demand, and in the spring of 1657 Cornelius Herperts Dejager made a brick-yard near the town, employing four men."
Probably more mis-information about old houses built of "bricks imported from England" has been spread in recent years through Elisa Lathrop's book, "Historic Houses of Early America" than from any other source. Let us examine what she says about a few of these old buildings. On page 53 is the following statement about several houses in South Carolina and Virginia:
"The curious old house which Boughton built on his land, for which he retained the early name of Mulberry, is said to be a replica of the old Boughton home at Stenton, England, * * * * * *, As is often the case, the bricks of which the house was built are said to have been brought from England. There does not seem to have been much clay suitable for brick-making in this part of the State."
"Near Smithfield, Surry County (Virginia), there is still standing an old red brick house known as Bacon's Castle. * * * * * It was built of bricks brought from England in 1655, by Arthur Allen, and for these early days was a mansion, with large, high-ceiled, paneled rooms." (Page 68.)
12 EARLY BRICKMAKING IN THE COLONIES
"When Jefferson began his home, it is said there was not another brick building in existence outside of Charlottesville in the whole section. The bricks were all made on the place except later, when he brought some of the finest for decorative use from Philadelphia. He built a saw mill, a grist mill and a nail factory. The house was finished in 1802."* (Page 109.)
The original Duston house in Haverhill, Massachusetts, Miss Lathrop says, was built in 1677 of imported bricks. Later, Duston "believed that it should not be necessary to import bricks, and began experimenting until he produced such excellent ones that Haverhill became noted for them. He then built a larger house of Haverhill bricks on the site of the former, with floors and roof of white oak, building it substantially, since it was to serve as a garrison house for refuge from the Indians." (Page 266.) Of the Connecticut houses, she says "New Haven (Connecticut) imported bricks from England for early building, and it is said by one historian to be the only New England colony which (lid 50, save for the 10,000 bricks imported in 1628 by Massachusetts. (Page 306.)
Of the Christopher Billop house on Staten Island, Miss Lathrop says, on page 325:
The Philipse house at Yonkers, New York, was said to have been "Built of red bricks brought from Holland, and laid in Flemish bond style, the oldest part, dating from 1682, * * * *
An extract from her book comes nearer home and, while it furnishes some early history of the founding of the city of Trenton, New Jersey, again gives us a wrong statement of the bricks entering into the construction of one of Trenton's famous landmarks, which has been lately restored. Thus,
In Hope Lodge, near Fortside Inn, Pennsylvania, which was built by Samuel Morris between 1721 and 1723, she says "All of the beautiful interior paneling and other woodwork, with the, bricks for the front of the house were imported from England." (Page 385.)
"Unlike Virginia, Maryland in the early days imported very few bricks, for suitable clay with which to make them was available in many localities. The highly glazed red or brown bricks found in old walls were usually made on the estates, and clay pits are often found near the houses." (Page 418.)
From the above apparently unqualified assertions that many of the prominent colonial homes were constructed of imported bricks, the reader is quite pron.2 to believe that such was the case. And yet in a letter to the writer, Miss Lath-rot) states
Henry Chandler Foreman in his important book, "Early Manor and Plantation Houses of Maryland, in describing "Oakland," the old Fr"1in homestead in Anne Arundel County, says it was built in 1702 and is "of two-storey frame construction, having one of the gableends brick with projecting chimneys of different sizes. * * * * * * * It is said that the bricks burned on the place cost five dollars per thousand." (Page 96.)
EARLY BRICKMAKING IN THE COLONIES 13
Talmage in his "Story of Architecture in America" says
We read in W. J. Mills' "Historic Houses in New Jersey" that "Petersborough," near Newark, the house of Colonel Peter Schuyler "was erected in 1775, of bricks imported from Holland." Of the Trent House then known as Bloomsbury Court, he says that "the main house (was) built of bricks brought from England as ballast by the Trent and Penn merchantrien."
In "Original Settlements on the Delaware" by Benjamin Ferris,
Ferris also quotes a letter from Joseph Hewes, dated \Villington (Wilmington), the 16th of 11th mo. 1737, in which he says:
"Now a for their stones, lime, and bricks and timber there was not any at this place till long after, except shingles and I am not certain whether they were there at that time or not."
Obviously this is clearly an error,, as we may judge from the following memorandum taken from an account book of William Shipley of Wilmington, kept during the year 1737:
Bricks the run of f s. d. Dolls. Cents the kiln, per 1000 0 16 3 2 16
Samuel N. Rhoads in his account of the Elizabeth Haddon house, in Haddonfield, built in 1713, which originally appeared in "Bulletin of Friends' Historical Society of Philadelphia ," Vol. 3 (1909), p. 58, says:
"The floor of the cellar was in part, covered with square flag-bricks, which there is every reason to believe were made in England, and whose origin must not be confounded with that of the ordinary bricks of the building, made, no doubt, in the neighborhood."
Mr. Rhoads then continues:
"A word as to these bricks and their origin. They still do duty in the present buildings, '[erected in 18421' and measure
"It is certain that, by 1713, brickmaking had become a regular industry in West-Jersey, and where surface clay was accessible on a plantation, the materials for large building operations like this were manufactured on the estate as closely as possible to the operation. There is an old clay pond, or marsh, just across the turnpike from, and nearly opposite Haddon Hall site, and distant therefrom about 300 yards."
"Only of late years has it dawned upon me that this blemish on the once fertile field of the Redman family was a legacy of the thrift of their collateral ancestor, Elizabeth Estaugh, in her building operations."
14 EARLY BRICKMAKING IN THE COLONIES
"Doubtless from this, or a similar depression on the farm, where clay marl of the best quality for firing is known to lie close to the surface, came the 'English bricks,' which fiction has made illustrious. The square flat-bricks which paved the garden walks and cellar floors (as already hinted), were probably imported, being of finer workmanship, a different color and of another sort of clay. Their size was exactly double that of the ordinary kind."
The following extracts from the court records and Quaker meeting minutes and early newspapers, bring this question nearer home.
From the Burlington County Court Minutes:
In a lawsuit before this Court for the 15th of 5 mo. 1687, John Ingram, a brickmaker, brought suit against (name unintelligible) for the payment of some bricks delivered on contract. The dispute arose because of the size of the bricks furnished. In the testimony it was shown that Ingram had three thousand bricks ready to deliver and one witness testified that 'the defendant was then satisfied with the size of the bricks to ye best of his knowledge for he heard him say nothing against their size."
The amount involved in this case was £15. 18. 8.
This action was brought under the Act of the General Assembly of 1683, and fully proves that the enactment of this legislation was more than a formality and was actually adopted as a result of the traffic in home-made bricks. The fact that two brick inspectors were appointed by the Burlington Court would indicate that the number of bricks made within this jurisdiction was of considerable quantity.
From the Chesterfield Friends Minutes
These show that the second meeting house, built in 1707, contained 40,000 bricks and that two hundred bushels of lime were used in its construction. When we consider that these would weigh over one hundred and fifty thousand pounds, or 75 tons, and would take up one-third of the capacity of a ship of that period, it is difficult to conceive of using such valuable cargo space in this way. Many persons insist that the bricks used in the present substantial meeting house were likewise imported from England.
A brickyard was established at Burlington at a very early date and the "Brick yard Road" is frequently mentioned in wills and deeds before 1720. We know that Walter Cock, either operated, or worked in a Burlington brickyard in 1725 and was probably succeeded by one William Petty who as administrator of the estate of John Petty, under his will of December 23, 1730, is described as a brickmaker.
In 1748, Benjamin Smith advertised for sale a plantation in Trenton containing about 100 acres on which in addition to a fine meadow and orchard was "a Brick Kiln and Clay for making Bricks." -[New York Gazette Revived in the Weekly Post Boy, July 4, 1748.
Another brickyard was in existence near Trenton and was offered for sale according to the "Pennsylvania Gazette" of October 24, 1751, and described as "three Acres of fine meadow land near Trenton and a fine convenience for a brick yard, the clay being said to be the best in the Township."
That brick making was well established at the time many of the old houses are said to have been built of imported bricks is well authenticated by the following advertisements
"To he sold by Henry Lawrence, A Small tract of land, lying on
In 1761, there was offered for sale by the executors of George Eyre, deceased, "A Plantation lying about two Miles from the City of Burlington, commonly known by the Name of the Brick-yards, containing about 170 Acres of Land * * * *"_[pc,Pennsylvania, Gazette, March 12, 1761].
Another interesting pre-Revolutionary advertisement reads as follows
"TO BE RENTED
EARLY BRICKMAKING IN THE COLONIES 15
fourteen Feet wide. Water and Wood may be had very convenient to carry on the Brickmaking Business; the Clay is known to make Bricks of the best Sort, and two Yoke of Oxen may be had, with the above Conveniences,-it lies within three quarters of a Mile of a very good Landing:
In John Woolman's 'Larger Account Book" is an interesting record of the cost of building a brick house in the days before the Revolution. This was the small brick house still standing on Branch street in Mount Holly and now known as the "\Woolman Memorial."* The total cost of this house was £130, 13s, 4d, of which £20. lOs was for the bricks and hauling and £9, 6s for lime. The itemized items of brick costs were
8 Mo. 1771
From the foregoing statements, it is quite clear that there was no practical reason why bricks should be brought from across the seas for the early houses, except in isolated cases. It is quite true that occasionally documentary proof is forthcoming to the contrary, as for instance in the case of the Warner Mansion, still standing, in Portsmouth, N: H. This evidence is in the form of bills for the purchase and transportation of the bricks which went into its construction. Such proof is, however, so rare as to merely confirm the general statement of the non-existence of houses built of imported bricks.
The writer, during the past several months, has been able to intimately observe many of the ancient houses throughout New Jersey, and the records concerning their antiquity. He is, in consequence, more than ever convinced of the foreign brick fallacy, despite the publicity which has been given to buildings of English bricks by certain newspapers in their zeal to glamor their historical stories with appealing romance. In no instance, in spite of the owners claims, has there been presented any real evidence of these houses having been built of imported bricks.
A slight variation in size is sometimes noticeable in the early bricks, but, and only in exceptional cases, are they less uniform, or inferior in quality to our modern product. The ancient glazed-end bricks, so universally used for ornamentation, show little surface deterioration and will undoubtedly continue to outline initials and dates of pioneer owners for many decades. Incidentally, this cornmendable method of recording the beginning of our plantation homes, is largely confined to the English settlements. Very few sections where Dutch influences prevailed have these distinctive markings on their old houses.
* Quoted by Mrs. Amelia M. Gummere, in 'The Journal and Essays of John Woolman," p. 607.
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