Winkle Terra Cotta Company

A scan of the Winkle Terra Cotta Company’s product catalog can be found at this link.

The text below is from “The Clayworking Plants of St. Louis” in the journal Brick 20:5 (1904-05-01, special issue on St. Louis), pages 228-231. A spelling error has been corrected.

Above: Joseph Winkle Terra Cotta Works in Cheltenham, Missouri, circa 1883.

The Winkle Terra Cotta Co., St. Louis, Mo.

Among the many industries of which St. Louis may be justly proud is that of the Winkle Terra Cotta Co., with offices in the Century Bldg. at 9th and Olive Sts., and works at 5739 Manchester Ave., St. Louis. The business was commenced under the name of The Joseph Winkle Terra Cotta works in 1883, on its present site, known as Cheltenham, a suburb of St. Louis. In 1889 business was incorporated under the title of The Winkle Terra Cotta Co.

Mr. Joseph Winkle, the founder and president of the company, is a man who has foreseen from afar off the wide field which lay before the useful product terra cotta. During the past twenty years stone and terra cotta have been pitted against each other in architectural competition, but the odds during the last decade have been in favor of terra cotta. Mr. Winkle has participated actively in this long conflict and many buildings of St. Louis are fronted and ornamented by the Winkle products.

The company owns about 170 acres of land altogether. The plant covers about 6 acres. The plant consists of three buildings, one five-story building 56 x 50 ft., one four-story building, 250 x 73 ft., and a three-story building 250 x 50 ft. In these three buildings various processes of manufacture are carried on, no one building being devoted to any particular stage, but as the buildings are well connected with each other on each floor by covered-in bridges, the work can be carried on in any of the buildings and on any floor according to the need of the hour.

Reviewing then the manufacturing facilities of the entire plant, there are three pressing shops and drying floors combined, one machinery building containing the clay-mixing machinery, one engine room, a boiler house, a storage house, a plaster shop, and a fitting department. The storage capacity of the plant is about 4,000 tons of clay.

The power equipment consists of four boilers, two of the O’Brien type and two of the Wangler type. These supply steam for a 150-h. p. Ranklin-Fritsch corliss engine; this drives the large clay working machinery. A 70-h. p. Brownell engine runs the dynamo which supplies electric lighting for the plant and power for the large motor.

A 25-h. p. Atlas engine supplies power for the machinery on the upper floors. A 30-h. p. engine is used for the operation of a small pug-mill and a 6-ft. dry pan; a 5-h. p. engine drives the lathe in the engine room, and an 8-h. p. engine furnishes the power for a St. Louis Steam Engine Co’s. air-pump from which the air pressure is derived for the atomizing of the glazes.

The principal portion of the clay used comes from a 70-acre farm owned by the company at Glencoe, Mo., twenty miles form St. Louis, and a part from an 82-acre tract of land at Iron Mountain. Iron Mountain furnishes a fine grade of kaolin and Glencoe a first-class terra cotta clay. Quite a number of men are engaged in the farming of these clays, which are purchased by the company on a contract arrangement. A good deal of Cheltenham shale is used. In the glazing department, and for special work, other clays are used, such as Tennessee ball clays, English ball clays, and English china clays.

In the general progress of manufacture the clay after passing through the dry-pan treatment, proceeds to two revolving screens, one of coarse mesh and the other of fine mesh, the tailing being returned to the dry pan. The screened clays are then deposited in bins, from which they are taken in the proportions desired by a chute to the mixing machinery. This consists of a spiral mixing conveyor above and parallel with a 10-ft. mixer in which the water is added. The material then falls down a vertical pugging shaft into a horizontal pugmill on the first floor. From this last machine the clay issues and is cut off into slabs, and conveyed to the storage department. From the storehouse the prepared material is taken at will to any floor desired by a Jeffreys elevator.

So far the manufacturing process has a similarity to that carried on in an ordinary brick or tile manufacturing plant, but the utmost care and caution is exercised so as to secure the best possible mixture of clays for terra cotta. The very interesting stage of the work begins with the drafting room and continues through plaster shop, mold department, and modeling room, where experienced artists shape the clay’s destiny. This is the most fascinating portion of terra cotta manufacture to the observer. The whirr, jar and jolt of the ordinary clayworking plant is absent. Here there is no sound save that of the slapping and punching of the non-resistant clay which endures this purgatorial process, and severe persecution, that it may subsequently receive the crown of an honored position in an important public structure.

On the fourth floor of the main building is to be found the laboratory and mixing room, under the charge of S. Geijsbeek, the well-known clay expert and ceramic chemist. In the laboratory is a complete chemical and physical outfit for testing and analyzing all the materials which enter the factory. One of the features of this equipment is that all boiling and heating of the various solutions is done by an electric stove. We need also the galvanometer which connects with the Heraeus Le Chatelier pyrometer for recording the progress of the kilns while burning.

The mixing room has all the necessary machinery for grinding and preparing of slip glazes and bodies which are used for the terra cotta. A set of small ball mills and also buhr mills are used for color grinding. In large storage tanks are kept the standard stock slips. Mr. Geijsbeek has been with the company twelve months and his experience in his special line of work is sure to contribute to a steady advance for the Winkle terra cotta products in public esteem.

The drying floor capacity of the plant is of great extent, the drying being done by exhaust steam in the day and live at night. The time of drying varies, of course, with the shape, size and thickness of the pieces. When dry the products are conveyed to the muffle kilns, of which there are fourteen, each 15 ft. in the clear. There are also two or three small trial and fritt kilns; from five to eight days are required for watersmoking and burning. When the goods are withdrawn from the kiln they are conveyed to the fitting department and there undergo a final inspection before shipment.

The officers of the company are: Pres., Jos. Winkle; Vice-Pres., Andrew Winkle; Secy. and Treas., John G. Hewitt.

Andrew Winkle has been connected with the plant about fifteen years as a manager with Mr. Winkle.

J. Byron Winkle is assistant to Mr. Jos. Winkle of the mixing and slip department.

J. G. Hewitt has been with the firm a number of years. A. J. Hewitt has charge of shipping and orders, and everyone connected with the enterprise seem to fit into their positions as if the niches had been cut out for them from the outset.

The company uses quite a number of teams and in its stables has twelve head of horses, but often from twenty to twenty-five teams are at work daily. The annual shipments exceed a hundred carloads.

Among the many important structures in which the Winkle terra cotta products have been used are the City Hall, Milwaukee, Wis.; Fort Dearborn Bldg., Chicago; Hellman Bldg., Los Angeles, Cal.; the High School, Detroit, Mich.; The Antlers Hotel, Colorado Springs, Colo.; the Wabash Passenger Depot, Decatur, Ill.; Alaska Bldg., Seattle. In St. Louis may be mentioned the Missouri Trust, Lincoln Trust, Wainwright, Carlton, Frisco, St. Louis Star, Chemical, and Kennard Bldgs.