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The Brickyard

Workers at an unidentified brickyard pose for the camera, ca. 1900. After a fire in 1853 that gutted a large portion of Green Bay's downtown, and later, the 1871 Peshtigo fire that killed approximately 2000 people, the use of brick and stone in building became more common. Stone was locally available from "the Ledge" as well as from fields, Brick, however, was easier to obtain and useful for construction because much of the region had an underlay of suitable clay for bricks.

Early manufacturing required the bricks to be made by hand. Fresh clay was thrown into a hole, soaked in water, and then shoveled into a pugmill where it was mixed with more water until it became smooth. As the clay was mixed, it was also forced to the bottom of the pugmill and slowly squeezed through a small hole in the bottom of the box. It was then rolled in sand and pressed into a wooden mold. When the mold was filled with four to eight bricks it was emptied onto a board where the clay bricks air-dried for several weeks. Once dry thousands of bricks were placed in wood kilns where they were fired for more than a week.

When the steam engine began to be used for brick making near the turn of the century, the availability of more sophisticated machinery allowed increased production. Unfortunately, as wood became less readily available, many of the smaller brickyards closed. Increased use of concrete block also provided competition for the brick industry in the 1920s. By the 1970s, the last remaining brick company in the area, the Duck Creek Brick Company, was torn down.

Photo #7.1984.10.
The Brickyard