Hydraulic Brick Company: The Early Years, by Mimi Stiritz

View of the Hydraulic-Press Brick Company factory, from "Missouri - The Productions and Buildings of St. Louis," in "Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper," Supplement (February 8, 1890).

View of the Hydraulic-Press Brick Company factory, from “Missouri – The Productions and Buildings of St. Louis,” in “Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper,” Supplement (February 8, 1890).


by Mimi Stiritz

for Brick by Brick: Building St. Louis and the Nation
Saint Louis University Museum of Art exhibit

Edward Canfield Sterling (1834-1911), the founder of the St. Louis brick-making empire (Fig. 1), was born in Salisbury, Connecticut, the son of Frederick and Caroline Sterling, and the grandson of General Elisha and Alma Canfield Sterling. Little is known about Edward’s family or background. Reportedly his grandfather, Elisha, was a graduate of Yale, class of 1787. Edward’s father was listed in the 1850 census as a farmer in Cleveland, Ohio, where the family had moved in 1849. Earlier, the Sterling family had resided in Geneva, New York.

Two of Edward’s uncles, Elisha T. Sterling (1806-1859) and John Montgomery Sterling, had been established in Cleveland for many years. Elisha T. Sterling’s success in business would figure prominently in the future careers of both Edward and Edward’s cousin/partner, Theodore Weld Sterling (1837-1893), the son of John M. and Mary Sterling.  After prospering as a hardware merchant, Elisha T. Sterling took over the management in 1843 of Cleveland’s pioneer iron foundry, Cuyahoga Steam Furnace Co. (incorporated in 1834), still struggling in the wake of the financial panic of 1837.

The fortunes of the company improved dramatically under Sterling and his talented foreman, Ethan Rogers (c.1811-1883), a mechanical engineer and inventor from New York. Rogers, who came to work at the Cuyahoga plant the same year that Sterling joined the company, is said to have planned the first hydraulic drawbridge across the Hudson River.

The new management at Cuyahoga successfully entered into the manufacture of large machinery, specializing in lake vessels and locomotives for railroads. During the 1850s, Ethan Rogers surveyed the field of brick manufacturing for its potential to provide Cuyahoga with new lines of production.  He successfully adapted a “walking beam” engine taken from a lake vessel to a brick machine of his design and was granted a patent in 1856. The letters patent for Rogers’ invention of “a new and improved machine for molding and pressing brick by hydraulic pressure” also carried the name of Elisha T. Sterling as a witness. Within a decade, this patent and the Cuyahoga brick machines, protected by the patent, provided the foundation for Edward Sterling’s company in St. Louis, an enterprise that by 1890 would grow to be the world’s largest manufacturer of pressed brick.

The first hydraulic brick machine was put in service in Cleveland in 1856; three years later it was sold to a manufacturer in Nashville, Tennessee, where eventually it was melted down for ordnance after the outbreak of the Civil War. Meanwhile, Edward Sterling was pursuing other business ventures. When his lumber business failed in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, Sterling returned to Cleveland and secured a financial interest in the patent rights for Ethan Rogers’s hydraulic dry brick press. Sterling acquired the second press (an “improved” model) manufactured by Cuyahoga, and in 1860 moved the 33-ton, cast iron machine to Memphis, Tennessee. He began operations there with the assistance of the plant superintendent Willis N. Graves, who also owned an interest in the press patent. Previously a Cleveland locomotive engineer, Graves would work with Sterling for the next 40 years and advance production through his patent designs for improved machinery and kilns.

The year 1860 also marked the marriage of Edward Sterling and Cordelia Seavey of Portland, Maine; the couple raised a family of five daughters and two sons. When the Civil War interrupted Sterling’s production in Memphis, Edward and his cousin Theodore Sterling established a plant in St. Louis, then a regional marketplace approaching a national position of third rank in population by 1870. The young industrials leased a brickyard near the southeast corner of Chouteau and Mississippi streets and began manufacturing in late April 1865 under the company name, E.C. & T. W. Sterling, using the third hydraulic machine from the Cleveland foundry. (The second machine remained in Memphis where the Tennessee Brick Co. was still operating it in 1904.)

The Sterlings’ family business held sufficient promise in 1868 to attract other investors.  Hydraulic Press Brick Company (HPB) was incorporated that year with a capital stock of $200,000 divided into 2,000 shares with a par value of $100 per share. The first subscribers for Hydraulic stock named in the corporate minutes were the following St. Louisans: E.C. Sterling (500 shares); T.W. Sterling (500 shares); Samuel M. Breckinridge (150 shares); John P. Collier (75 shares); Drury Underwood (30 shares); Joseph H. Clark (30 shares); and Sanford B. Kellog (20 shares). E. C. Sterling became Hydraulic’s first president at an annual salary of $1,500; he remained president until retirement in 1905. T. W. Sterling served as secretary-treasurer from 1868 to 1874.

Hydraulic Brick took over the buildings, equipment and machinery in use at the plant on Chouteau and Mississippi, paying the Sterlings in shares of stock valued at $50,000. The company also acquired an interest in the rights of three patents: the Rogers hydraulic press; Daniel and George M. Blocker’s design for a brick kiln; and John McDonald’s design for an improved “perpetual kiln.” The detailed inventory of the brickyard transferred to the new company included, among other items: one Rogers hydraulic brick press, two kiln sheds with dimensions of 290 x 60 feet; clay sheds; a two-flue boiler; one vertical beam pumping machine; a set of clay crushing rollers; a clod crusher; 13 horses and mules; one open “business” buggy, and six wagons for hauling bricks. The net earnings reported for the year 1868 totaled $5,828.44; the annual production amounted to about 5 million bricks.

Despite these outward signs of progress, Hydraulic faced continued difficulties during the start-up years in St. Louis. The Sterling cousins struggled to keep the business afloat and turned to friends, family and the banks for loans. Adding to financial problems, local manufacturers of hand-made brick and their clients strongly resisted Hydraulic’s new type of brick; their bias against the innovative technology echoed the wider, on-going debate of the Industrial Revolution. Some years before the Sterlings entered the industry, a mob in Philadelphia, in an extreme example of resistance to change, smashed the city’s first steam-powered brick machine and threw the castings into the Schuykill River.

Sterling encountered a milder climate of opposition in St. Louis in 1869 when the editor of a local newspaper published his complaints regarding the “great injustice” suffered by the machine brick industry through prejudicial and incorrect reporting. Sterling refuted the claim that the machine’s greater speed of production resulted in a brick product that was not as “solid and perfect” as one made by the hand process. He further countered allegations that Hydraulic brick was unsuitable for use as face or front brick and should only be resorted to for “inside courses and partition walls . . . some builders preferring to stop their work rather than use them in any place.”

While disavowing any intention “to puff machine-made brick,” Sterling offered proof that Hydraulic brick was indeed desirable for exterior facing on important projects, citing the example of the new city waterworks under construction in 1869 at Bissell’s Point on the Mississippi River. Sterling pointed out that contractors were willing to pay $21 per thousand for 300,000 face bricks of Hydraulic’s “so-called dry press” type, but they delegated bricks made by hand at a cost of $15 per thousand to the inside courses and partition walls. Sterling asserted that the “demand for our front brick is greater than we can supply,” and that in the past season (1869) the company manufactured about 7 million bricks.

The question of “solidity” of the machine-pressed bricks had been settled by a test of resistance to pressure on order of “General Callender, U.SA,” according to Sterling. The test results showed that it required some 157 tons of pressure to crush a pressed brick but only 65 tons to crush a common brick. Prior to the construction of Eads Bridge (1867-1874), the first to span the Mississippi River at St. Louis, James B. Eads and his assistant Henry Flad had conducted an extensive series of experiments to test the strength of all kinds of building materials. These tests on pressed brick also found Hydraulic’s product superior in strength when compared to two other St. Louis manufacturers of pressed brick as well as to brick produced by the hand process.

Part of the objections to the new machine brick derived from a misunderstanding of its moisture content. Failed experiments in the East to manufacture brick from “dry” clay had fueled local distrust of the Hydraulic clay product. To set the record straight, Sterling explained that while Hydraulic Brick was the only firm in St. Louis “making what is called a ‘dry clay machine brick,’ in fact, the clay they used was not dry, but contained sufficient natural moisture to avoid easy crumbling or cracking after firing — a critical distinction. What Hydraulic eliminated was the lengthy, time-honored stage of production known in the hand-made process as tempering, during which water was gradually added to the clay. The distrust of the dry clay method, however, lingered on for many years. J. Thomas Scharf’s classic history of St. Louis (1883) repeated the old claim that the “rapidity” of machine manufacture rendered it impossible for bricks “to be made perfect and solid in every respect, and particularly so with those made from dry clay.”

In a relatively short time, the quality of Hydraulic brick began to sell itself. By the end of 1872, the company had increased its production to around 18 million bricks a year, fired in 14 kilns. Its output then represented about one-tenth of the total annual St. Louis brick product, nearly all of which was still made by hand except for bricks manufactured by Hydraulic along with a couple of smaller concerns operating under different press patents. With the purchase of a second brick press, the plant could turn out about 9,000 bricks per hour. An indicator of the firm’s financial progress appeared when its first cash dividend was paid in 1871 — a total of $9,511.50 from the previous year’s net profits of $17,943.68.

Soon after incorporation, the company had made the first of many expansions necessary to keep its operations supplied with clay. The new yards (Fig. 2), located along Chouteau Avenue just west of Grand Avenue, consisted of a collection of unassuming frame buildings including numerous long sheds for storing clay. The proximity of the yards to railroad lines with sidetracks would become an important asset by reducing time and labor costs in hauling materials. Over the years, the new brick yards generally followed a westward direction toward the city limits and unimproved land. When the yards became depleted of clay, the acreage was sold for redevelopment. (One former brickyard was laid out in 1892 as the “Hydraulic Press Brick Co. Subdivision.”)

Sterling’s close attention to the practical side of the business resulted in significant improvements in manufacturing. His introduction of coal for burning bricks instead of conventional wood turned out to be a major asset to production. Because the cost of fuel for engines, kilns and drying furnaces heavily influenced the cost of bricks, Hydraulic at first relied on a local supplier, Parker, Russell & Co., to furnish the material (the brick manufactory consumed some 800 bushels per day); the coal came from a pit located about two miles from the brick plant. This coal was less expensive than the higher grade of coal available across the river in Illinois; later, Hydraulic would burn Illinois coal for better results in the brick product. Patents issued to Sterling in 1870 for a down-draught kiln and to Willlis Graves in 1869 for a machine designed to improve the preparation of clay both added technological support to plant operations.

A local feature story on the progressive new home industry suggested that by 1872 the machine had won the day over the “old mode” (the hand process). Praise was lavished on the “wonderful precision and regularity” of the patent hydraulic press, “operated entirely by water pressure” (Fig. 3). The company bricks were found to be “perfect specimens . . . compact, smooth, and so hard that an iron instrument will scarcely leave an indentation on them.”  The claim was made that the bricks were “now included in the specifications of nearly every architect of the city” and used in almost all of the largest and “best buildings.” Orders also came from out of state.

The Eads Bridge and its railroad tunnel topped a list of prominent St. Louis structures employing a large quantity of Hydraulic brick.  George I. Barnett and Thomas W. Walsh, the city’s most prestigious architects, endorsed Hydraulic machine brick in important 1870s works such as the Lindell Hotel, St. Louis Mutual Life Insurance Building, and Jaccard Building (all designed by Barnett); and Walsh’s Republican Building, and Four Courts Building. Many of these buildings, however, exhibited facades of stone or occasionally iron, following the architectural fashion of the time. Though the buildings represented large contracts for Hydraulic, the brick was employed in subordinate elevations and for unexposed interior work.

The market price quoted for Hydraulic pressed brick in 1872 ranged from $7.50 per thousand for the lowest grade, to $25 to $30 per thousand for the highest grade. An order for 60,000 front bricks delivered to Chicago in 1872 was billed at the rate of $45 per thousand. Though pressed brick commanded a higher market price, the cost of manufacturing was less than the cost of producing hand-made brick. However, pressed brick resulted in an increase in building costs. The construction workers (hod-carriers) whose job often required carrying bricks up a ladder demanded a higher wage after discovering that the new type of brick weighed about a pound more than an ordinary hand-made brick. To sell bricks, Sterling personally paid the overage in wages until the contractors’ demand for his product made the compensation unnecessary.

Hydraulic responded to early competition in the local market by negotiating its first merger in 1872. A new company, Union Press Brick Works, was created when Hydraulic joined production with St. Louis Brick Co., a north-side manufacturer active since the late 1860s under patent rights of a press brick machine invented by Porter L. Sword of Adrian, Michigan. St Louis Brick brought to the merger the rights to use two Sword machines; Hydraulic contributed the use of one five-mold Rogers press, considered the best machine for turning out fine face brick. Hydraulic eventually gained a controlling interest in Union Press Brick.

As pressed brick gained in popularity, the control of the patent rights became key to protecting the company from competition and to ensuring future growth. George A. Bass, a later president, recalled that in the early days, “All competitors were enemies and none sought other than to harm them all.” After the close of the Civil War, the race for business was accelerated by the constant stream of patents issued for clay-working devices (including patents from St. Louis inventors). Hydraulic stockholders and officers agreed in 1882 to purchase the rights to Ethan Rogers’ press for the sum of $25,000. In addition to Rogers, interests in the patent were held by A.W. Duty, a Cleveland brick manufacturer; Willis N. Graves, Hydraulic’s plant superintendent; and E. C. Sterling.

The acquisition of the patent guaranteed the company a franchise monopoly covering the entire country with the exception of five cities where pre-existing rights remained in force: Cleveland, Memphis, Nashville, Louisville and Evansville, Indiana.  In the 1870s, Rogers had extended the term of his original patent (valid for 17 years) by making improvements to the machine. With the help of Willis Graves, Hydraulic continued the same practice of patenting improvements to the press and other equipment. One of the early franchises (1885) granted a syndicate in Kansas City, Missouri, the exclusive rights (for $25,000) to use the Hydraulic brick press in some 25 counties of Missouri along with specified counties in the state of Kansas.

In early 1874, T. C. Sterling stepped down from his position as secretary-treasurer to pursue travel, though he remained a director until his death in Paris, France, in 1893. Sterling was replaced by young Henry (Hal) Ware Eliot (1843 -1919); thirty years later Eliot would become Hydraulic’s second president (1905-08), and then serve as chairman of the board. The Eliot family name was well known in St. Louis through the distinguished career of Henry’s father, William Greenleaf Eliot, a prominent Unitarian clergyman and a co-founder of Washington University in St. Louis. Much later, the Eliot name gained international recognition through the literary achievements of Henry Eliot’s son, Thomas Sterns (T. S.) Eliot; the poet still held Hydraulic stock as late as 1948.

After graduating from Washington University in 1863, Henry Eliot disappointed his father by choosing a career in business instead of service in the church. He worked for a wholesale grocer for several years, followed by an unsuccessful stint manufacturing chemicals. Eliot likely connected with Hydraulic through his friend and University classmate John Pierre Collier (1842-1877), one of the company’s original incorporators. Both John Collier and his brother Maurice Dwight Collier held overlapping directorships on the boards of the university and the brick company. Over the years, Henry Eliot’s close ties to the school brought Hydraulic substantial investors as well as customers.

Just a year after his son joined Hydraulic, William Greenleaf Eliot (then chancellor) came to Hydraulic’s financial aid by personally recommending the loan that the university executed to the company in 1875. Undoubtedly Eliot also saw to it that Hydraulic received contracts for brick used in the buildings erected by the university in the 1870s and ’80s on the old campus downtown. Chancellor Eliot subscribed for a large number of company shares in his own name; in 1891, his widow gave the University $100,000 in Hydraulic stock. Both Louis and William Chauvenet, sons of the university’s second chancellor and neighbors of the Eliots, owned Hydraulic stock; Louis served as Hydraulic’s assistant secretary for a time; William, a mining chemist, provided expertise in the properties of clay. The names of Wayman Crow and William Eliot Smith stand out among other prominent St. Louisans who were major benefactors of the university as well as large holders of Hydraulic shares.  Crow, a co-founder of the university with Eliot, was also a personal friend.  William Eliot Smith, a university classmate of Henry Eliot, was the president of Illinois Glass Works near Alton, Illinois; his father, William Henry Smith, and his uncle, James Smith, were both close friends of William Greenleaf Eliot.

Hydraulic Brick entered into a period of substantial growth requiring additional brickyards and machinery about the time it received the first of three large contracts to supply brick for the U. S. Custom House & Post Office in St. Louis. Between 1877 and 1880, Hydraulic agreed to deliver 3.5 million bricks for the new granite-faced federal building covering a full city block. The contract price in 1880 specified the rate of $7.25 per 1,000 bricks.  At the end of 1882, Hydraulic’s total output of brick approached 42 million supplied from four yards employing 560 men and 250 mules “working ten hours per day and ten months of the year.” Union Press Brick Works (a partner with Hydraulic) produced another 20 million bricks. It was stated that together the two companies furnished more than “one-half the consumption of brick in St. Louis”; in addition, they shipped “largely to Canada, Texas, Salt Lake City and intermediate points.” By the mid-1880s, new presses for the plants were manufactured locally by the St. Louis Iron & Machine Works; within a decade St. Louis shops reportedly ranked among the leading manufacturers of press brick machines.

The most significant area of corporate growth, however, occurred outside St. Louis. The long periods in the 1880s during which E.C. Sterling was away from the St. Louis office while shopping for brickyards to acquire soon paid off. By 1890, Hydraulic had installed patent equipment in branch yards at Collinsville, Illinois; Kansas City, Missouri; Findlay, Ohio; Toledo, Ohio; and Washington D.C. (the works of the latter yard near Alexandria, Virginia, later became the site of the present Pentagon Building.) President E. C. Sterling and secretary Henry Eliot held the same positions in the various branch offices. To finance this explosive expansion, the company issued bonds in 1886 for $100,000. In 1890 Hydraulic reincorporated for a term of 50 years and increased the capital to $2 million, the third increase in capital since 1881.  More than half of the 20,000 shares in 1890 were held by seven men, all of whom had been early subscribers, four of them since 1868.

The company’s extensive works in St. Louis comprised more than 200 acres, employing 500 workers in six yards. Yet out of some 200 million bricks made by Hydraulic in 1890, almost half were the product of the new yards located outside St. Louis. Negotiations continued for further expansion. The St. Louis parent company sold exclusive rights to its patents for the establishment of Chicago Hydraulic Press Brick Co. in exchange for $300,000 in stock; the terms granted a territory for manufacturing defined by a “circle whose center is the present Board of Trade in the City of Chicago and whose radius is a line 100 miles in length.”  The Chicago works would quickly become one of Hydraulic’s top branches in earnings. In 1891, the board acknowledged the contributions E.C. Sterling had made to the firm’s prosperity by voting to increase the president’s annual salary from $8,500 to $15,000, noting their expectation of his ability to provide future growth for the company.

A change in architectural fashion and methods of construction helped to create an even greater demand for pressed brick. During the 1880s, the preference for stone as an exterior facing material gradually diminished as a new appreciation of the potential of brick gained favor among leading architects and their clients. Houses and commercial buildings alike exhibited exterior walls of fine pressed face brick often combined with brick in a variety of ornamental patterns used in detailing. Hydraulic’s product was shown off in the Bissell Water Tower (1885), a handsome public work by William S. Eames noted at the time for its artful use of brick (Fig. 4). Pressed brick also began to find acceptance for interior display. For example, in facing for fireplaces, pressed brick replaced the traditional marble often specified in architect-designed residences. Fireplaces in Henry Eliot’s 1880s home featured enameled brick supplied from early experiments at Hydraulic. However, it would be several years before Hydraulic (or any other American firm) could match the quality of imported English enamel work, the costly gold standard of the industry.

The introduction of the iron and steel skeleton frame in tall buildings opened a vast and lucrative new market for pressed brick. The demands for economy in the tall building coupled with demands for a marketable artistic image gave the pressed clay product an advantage over stone facing. Brick combined with terra cotta also offered superior fireproofing qualities. Locally, Hydraulic brick was early exploited by the Boston architects Peabody & Stearns in the façade of the Turner Building (1883-84), St. Louis’s most prestigious office building of the time and the address of Hydraulic’s downtown offices (Fig. 5). New York architect Steven D. Hatch also selected Hydraulic brick for the Laclede Bank Building (1887-89). Located in the heart of the city’s “Wall Street,” the Laclede Building (Fig. 6) combined red brick and terra cotta in one of the first local buildings to rise above seven stories. The Hydraulic offices followed the company brick to the Odd Fellows Building (1890) (Fig. 7), where Henry Isaacs produced a distinguished work in brick, worthy of its choice site at Ninth and Olive, directly opposite the U. S. Custom House & Post Office.

In addition to St. Louis, Chicago offered a boom market for brick in early skyscraper construction. The Chicago-based Inland Architect suggested in 1884 that “The St. Louis Hydraulic Press Brick Co. should store, say, a million bricks in Chicago, so that architects can know to a certainty when they can have this excellent material.” Numerous landmark buildings by the leading architects in the Windy City boasted brick from the St. Louis manufacturer. The list includes early examples in dark red such as Burnham & Root’s Calumet Building (1884) and S. S. Beman’s Pullman (Palace Car Co.) Building, Chicago’s largest and “architecturally the most imposing” office building in 1884. Within a decade Burnham & Root used Hydraulic for the Tacoma Building, Women’s Temple, Great Northern Hotel, and the 21 story Masonic Temple, said to be the tallest building in Chicago until 1905. The company also furnished material for Holabird & Roche’s Tacoma, Marquette and Old Colony buildings. The Philadelphia branch plant, Eastern Hydraulic-Press Brick Co., delivered material for Boston’s Carter Building (1893), the city’s first steel frame office building and the earliest important example of Hydraulic pressed brick to be used in Boston.

Dark red and brown pressed front brick had steadily held favor among architects until the early 1890s, when light-colored brick began to take the lead following its successful introduction in New York. In 1891, E.C. Sterling’s new house (Fig. 8), built to designs of Rossiter & Wright (New York), brought prestigious Westmoreland Place – an example of Hydraulic light yellow brick. One of the most striking applications of the company’s buff brick in St. Louis appeared in Adler & Sullivan’s 14 story Union Trust Building, the tallest office block in town at its completion in 1893 (Fig. 9). Hydraulic moved its corporate offices into the Union Trust in 1897 and remained there for more than 100 years.

The taste for light shades of brick prevailed through the World’s Fair era in St. Louis. Hydraulic’s light gray, thin Roman brick imparted dignity and refinement to the Hotel Jefferson (Fig. 10), constructed as the premiere hostelry for visitors to the 1904 fair. Herbert C. Chivers’ 1903 Beaux Arts design in pale buff brick for the Woman’s Magazine Building (now the municipal headquarters of University City) added another point of interest for fairgoers, including subscribers to the building’s namesake, The Woman’s Magazine, a rival to The Ladies Home Journal in circulation (Fig. 11). The increasing range in colors and variety of finishes available in Hydraulic products indicated the market demand; the firm’s slogan/advertisement captured the breadth of its inventory: “Manufacturers of Common, Front, Ornamental, Enameled & Glazed Bricks In All The Colors Known To Clay Working.”

On the 25th anniversary of the company’s founding, Sterling presented the directors with an overview of the firm’s growth in production and earnings. The tabulations showed the dramatic increase of output from 5 million bricks in 1868 to more than 84 million at the close of 1892. With considerable pride (and taking some liberty in appraising its current value), the president noted that one share of stock offered at $34 to the original subscribers in 1868 had increased more than 384 percent per annum in 25 years; thus by his calculations one share, together with its earnings in cash and stock dividends, amounted to a total value in 1893 of $3,266.

E.C. Sterling retired from the presidency in 1905 and left St. Louis to reside in Redlands, California. He remained a director through 1907 and helped to shepherd the parent company through the process of consolidating the 14 branch companies into one. Prior to the merger in January 1907, the capital was increased to $10 million. The branch works and offices, located in eight different states (and the District of Columbia), comprised the following companies:

  • American Hydraulic Press Brick Co., St. Louis
  • Illinois Hydraulic Press Brick Co., St. Louis
  • Union Press Brick Works, St. Louis
  • Chicago Hydraulic Press Brick Co., Chicago
  • Cleveland Hydraulic Press Brick Co., Cleveland
  • Eastern Hydraulic Press Brick Co., Philadelphia
  • Findlay Hydraulic Press Brick Co., Findlay, Ohio
  • Kansas City Hydraulic Press Brick Co., Kansas City, Missouri
  • Menominee Hydraulic Press Brick Co., Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • Omaha Hydraulic Press Brick Co., Omaha, Nebraska
  • Washington Hydraulic Press Brick Co., Washington D. C.
  • Kelly Brick & Tile Co., West Superior, Wisconsin
  • Ohio Press Brick Co., Roseville, Ohio
  • Ayer McCard Clay Co., Brazil, Indiana

In the opening years of the 20th century, experts in the field of brick manufacture reflected that the industry had given rise to a new movement in American architecture, marking “what might be fairly called the ‘Brick Era.’” No longer was the making of brick merely a trade; it had become both a science and an art. From a broad perspective of brick-making spanning 40 centuries, it was observed that the methods of working clay had advanced more in the past three or four decades than the world had witnessed in all the preceding ages. The path-breaking industry Edward Sterling and his associates established in St. Louis had brought together the city’s natural clay resources, entrepreneurship, and American ingenuity to create a brick colossus. Today, the monumental legacy of the Hydraulic Press Brick Co. is accessible to all and can be found embodied in the walls of buildings across the nation from coast to coast.