From: The Clayworking Plants of St. Louis

May, 1904, p. 222 ff.


The first object of interest when approaching the immense office structure is an enormous section of sewer pipe 6 it. 6 in. in diameter which stands on guard, facing the road and resembling one of those huge mortars used for throwing shells in ancient warfare. The office building can lay claim to the distinction of being the largest and most substantial ever seen on a clay manufacturing plant. It is constructed of brick and terra cotta, three stories in height, 112 x 45 ft. It was finished in 1902. The lower story contains private offices for the president, secretary, vice-president and superintendent of the company, a general accounting room, a shipping office, a good kitchen, and fine dining room, for the use of officers and clerks. All hands dine together and our "Brick" representative was treated to a succulent repast which would have graced any hotel table. The Laclede company believes that gastronomy is economy.

The second story of the office houses the engineering department, the drafting room, the directors' room, the laboratory, the store room and the guest room. The third story is used for general storage purposes.

The plant was established in 1844, its location then being far from the city of St. Louis, the district being known at that as the village of Cheltenham. The first products were firebrick and tile. In those early days fire brick was made by hand. It is due, however, to the efforts of James Green that the works have attained their present magnitude. Mr. Green is now a well-known manufacturer and capitalist in St. Louis. He was born in Staffordshire, England, in 1829, coming to this coming to this country in 1852, armed with capital, a thoroughly acquired trade, business acumen and abundant energy. He worked at first in the rolling-mills and furnaces in the East. In 1857 he arrived in St. Louis, and was 17 years with the Laclede Rolling Mills. In 1865 Mr. Green took hold of the clay manufacturing enterprise and in 1869 the Laclede Firebrick Manufacturing Co. was incorporated. Mr. Green is at this time [1904] president of the corporation and has always been the controlling factor.

Many are the interesting reminisces which can be gleaned by a conversation with Mr. Green. It is with pleasure that we reproduce here an old photograph of the Laclede plant taken some 40 or 50 years ago. At the back of the plant, on the hill, will be noticed a large mansion which in those days was surrounded by numerous slave cabins. This was a most fashionable resort at that time. The important was a group of sulphur springs which were warranted to cure every disease entailed upon man by the stealing of the apple. The plant itself was surrounded by a forest of fruit trees, many of which had to be cut away to clear the track for the arrival of the first boiler on the plant. Thus does civilization always leave ruin and havoc in its train. The reputation of the sulphur springs died away, possibly eclipsed by some early pill patentee. The fashionable boarders left, the slave cabins were inhabited by the Laclede brickmakers and eventually the mansion itself because a boarding house in which numerous questions of clay working lore were discussed with more vigor than eloquence but with great sincerity. The mansion was burned several years ago. A comparison of the early plant and the present extensive works as shown in our illustration will be of interest to all. The president of the company, as already mentioned, is James Green, the founder. The vice-president is J.L. Green and the secretary J. Munhall King. The superintendent of the works is Fred Talbot.

The company has 123 acres, acquired from time to time as the business developed. Shipping facilities are excellent over the Missouri Pacific and Frisco railroads, there being no less than four miles of switches available. The products of the plant are produced really in three plants, numbered respectively, No. 1, 2 and 3.

Plant No. 1 is devoted to the manufacture of firebrick, fire- proofing, tiles of all kinds, gas retorts, flue hiring, chimney pipe, sewer pipe and drain tile. The clay is procured from the company's own mines situated about 300 yd. from the plant and also from two leased mines on the other side of the hill. The mines are worked to the depth of about 60 ft., the clay being hoisted to the surface and dumped. At the time of our visit the dump held over 100,000 tons of fine raw material. In this mine of course, there is the usual equipment of boiler hoists and pull ups. The clay is conveyed to the plant from the dump by a trestle to the fourth story of the plant crossing in it the journey the River Des Peres, a turbulent stream which at every heavy rain gives anxiety to the clayworkers who reside on its banks. Three years ago a 16-ft. overflow cost the LacIede company $40,000, over 4 ft. of water being in the plants and 1 ft. of water in the box cars. The danger is increased by the city turning the storm sewers into the river. When the river is at its height the plant may be said to have direct water communication with the World's Fair and New Orleans.

The clay is carried to the plant in side dump cars, amny of which were furnished by the Atlas Car Col, of one and two cubic yards capacity. The cars are hauled by a Porter locomotive. The raw material is dumped down a chute to the lower floor in front of the pans, of which there are six, five 9 ft. and one 7 ft. in diameter and two of them wet pans and four dry pans. The ground materail then proceeds up a boot elevator to the screens on the fourth floor. the screens are 20 ft. stationary screens and the clay passing through them goes to the storage bins on the second and third floors. Each bin holds from 35 to 40 tons of clay. From here the clay proceeds by gravity to the dry presses, wet pans, or pug mills as desired.

There are two four-mold Boyd dry presses of 23,000 daily capacity each. One of them has been in use 12 years, giving entire satisfaction. The dry-press brick are then conveyed to a hot floor on the lower story and are stacked nine high. The total capacity of the floor is about 750,000 brick. The floor is underlaid with sewer pipe, and constructed of paving brick and concrete, and is 112 X 280 ft. It utilizes exhaust steam by day and live steam by night. The bricks take about seven days to dry on this floor, although, it is possible to dry the brick sufficiently to set it in the kiln in 48 hours.

Of especial interest is the large variety of fire-clay tile. The company furnishes refractory products of a high grade for every conceivable purpose -- blast furnace linings, cupola linings for general use in iron foundries and steel plants, settings for coal, gas benches and linings for water gas apparatus, locomotive tile, boiler tile, kiln floor tile, etc. The products are made in three different qualities; Laclede St. Louis No. i firebrick having achieved a national reputation for boiler settings.

All these special products are made in molds by hand, the molds being made in the carpenter shop. These tile are dried on the first and second floors, the upper drying floors being heated by steam pipe coils, receiving the exhaust steam from the pipe press and the engine. At night live steam is employed. The products are conveyed from floor to floor by gravity and steam elevators. The time of drying varies according to the size of the pieces.

Fireproofing, flue lining, chimney pipe, drain tile and sewer pipe are all made oil a Turner, Vaughn & Taylor pipe press, the products being made on it as large as 24 in. in diameter. This sewer pipe press is exceedingIy powerful, giving a pressure of 80,000 lb. Its output averages 3,000 6-in. sewer pipe in 10 hours, and 450 24-in. pipe in the same time. Fireproofing and hollow building blocks, also stiff-mud firebrick are being made oil a new equipment of machinery recently installed by the American Clayworking Machinery Co., Bucyrus, 0. This comprises an 18-ft. pug-mill on the second floor. a No. 1 "Giant" machine. 45,000 daily capacity and two "Eagle" represses, with a capacity of 27,000 daily.

These products are being dried in a 12-track waste heat drier 120 ft. long with 114,000 daily capacity. The drier will hold when filled 420 Cars, 354 brick to a car. The waste heat is blown into the drier by a 12-ft. fan, a 6-ft. exhaust fan acting as auxiliary. These fans are run with an electric motor with power generated from a separate engine and generator.

The kiln equipment is extensive, there being in all 17 kilns of both round and square down-draft types, varying in capacity from 40,000 to 120,000. These kilns derive their draft from stacks some of which take care of two kilns each. Specially noticeable is the solid floor construction of these kilns, the company's own floor blocks being used. Between and around the kilns there is a substantial brick pavement which gives perfect haulage during the wettest of weather and keeps the yard floor in good condition.

The boiler house is in a separate building and contains one Heine boiler, three 6-flue O'Brien boilers with an aggregate capacity of 600 h. p. The average steam pressure carried is I25 lb. The main engine is in the main building and is a 500 h. p. direct-connected Corliss engine manufactured by the Fulton Iron Works, St. Louis. A small auxiliary "Ideal" engine built by A. L. Ide & Sons, Springfield, Ill., supplies power for running the machine shop, blacksmith shop and the dynamo when the large engine is stopped.

Two wheel spring trucks are used to handle the bricks from the drying floor to the kiln. The kilns are unloaded to the cars or stock sheds by wheelbarrows, the cars being close to the kilns. Many of these cars and barrows are built and repaired in the blacksmith shop and machine shop. The former contains two forges and a complete set of tools and the latter is supplied with 4 lathes, 1 boring mill, 1 drill press, 1 planer, 1 jumper, 1 surfacer and emery wheels for grinding chilled plates.

The brick watersmoke and burn in about seven days, and the other products according to size. We must forget to mention, however, what impresses the outsider as being the most important product of the plant: We refer to the gas retorts. The materials for these are specially prepared days from Cheltenham and an exceedingly refractory Missouri flint. This flint is calcined first in a cupola of 150 tons a day capacity, giving 4 ft. every two hours, in charging and with drawl. When this flint emerges from the kiln it looks very much like popcorn, being broken up into small nodules. These are ground, screened and mixed with the clay passing into the pug mill first and then being conveyed to a drying floor where the mixed material remains from 38 to 72 hours, the longer the better. From this point it proceeds to the wet pan and from there to a disintegrator, being then conveyed by a truck to the rammers who built up the retorts around a central core. It is very interesting to watch the formation of these gigantic hollow clay products. About four retorts a day are made on each machine. The Laclede retort room can turn out 16 retorts on four machines. The core is drawn up as the work proceeds, the clay being beaten down between the core and the outside casing. When the retort is completed it is removed bodily in the outside casing on a truck to the drying floor, where the case is then removed. Drying is accomplished in two or three weeks. The retorts are then moved by truck to the kiln. The average retort ranges from 15 in. x 25 in. by 9 ft. long to 16 in. x 28 in. by 9 ft. long and these weigh anything from 2,000 to 3,000 lb. The Laclede drying floor will hold about 1,000 of these retorts, and a kiln will hold about 80. The burning of a kiln of retorts averages 12 days.

Plant No. 2.

The products of plant No. 2, which is located about 300 ft. southwest of No. 1 plant are sewer pipe, wall coping. drain tile, firebrick and tiles, chemical rings and tiles and brick for sulphuric acid plants. The building is three and four stories high and is 350 x 100 ft. On the first floor are manufactured high-grade firebrick and tile, among which may be mentioned the celebrated grades, the "Crown" and the "Climax". On this floor, also, the clays are stored and the pans, crushers and engines are to be found. The boilers are in a separate building. On the second floor the products are dried, exhaust steam being used under the floor, and also this floor contains the trap and junction shop. On the third floor the sewer pipe are made and also the smaller products dried. On the fourth floors are the feeders and screens.

The fireclav for this plant and the shale as well, are procured from No. 2 mine by drifting into a side of a hill. The raw material is hauled to the pans in dump cars. There are three dry pans and three wet pans. Hard clays pass through a Blake crusher prior to the dry pan. The material, after being, screened, proceeds to the storage bins, from whence it is drawn at will to either the wet pan or the pug mill. On this plant we noted a patent shovel attachment to the wet pan for the purpose of removing the material from the pan, without interrupting its operation. The shovel or scoop is attached to the wet pan on hinges on the side of the pan, and is operated by a chain and lever. When depressed it presents its shovel edge to the motion of the pan bed, scooping the material onto a belt carrier which conveys it to an elevator. From this elevator the material is dumped into an automatic feeder which supplies it as needed to a Turner, Vaughn & Taylor pipe press, making pipe from 3-in. to 24-in. On this press are also made drain tile, wall coping, fire proofing and vitrified chemical rings. The chemical rings resemble inverted cogwheels and are used for the purpose of lining the towers in sulphuric acid works. They form the space which is necessary to allow the free access of the fumes caused by the smelting of the zinc or by the preparation of the phosphates to the water which is admitted at the top of the tower and trickles down through these rings. A product absolutely impervious to attack is essential. Cluster dies are used to produce these chemical rings, ten streams of clay isuing at a time from the press, each stream cutting into five sections or producing 50 rings at each operation. These rings are 3 in. x 4 in. and are fluted in the interior.

The engine on this plant is a 200-h.p. slide valve type. There are four 6-flue O'Brien boilers, 500-h.p. aggregate capacity. The kiln equipment comprises thirteen round down-draft kilns, ranging from 26 to 30 ft. in diameter and one square kiln. Each kiln averages six carloads. In the transportatoin of the products to the railroad cars the smaller sizes are wheeled on barrows, and the larger ones are rolled to the cars. The shipments on the Laclede are pretty prompt. On the day of our visit, at 10 a.m., a telegram was received for a 40,000 lb. car of 6-in. sewer pipe. At 3 p. m. the shipping notice was sent out, the bill clerk had made out the invoice and the car had left the yards. Eleven cars of material were shipped away by rail that day and 25 teams hauled 150 tons of finished products into the city on the same day.

The fuel used in the plants is all coal for watersmoking and burning. Salt glazing is done on the last day of fire, a refuse salt being generally used and three days are allowed for cooling off.

Plant No. 3.

This is the latest venture of the company, the plant having been installed in 1902. The manufacture of sewer pipe was commenced in 1878 on Plant No. 2. In this plant the clay is procured from the same mines and delivered in the same way to two 9-ft. dry pans, from which the material is elevated to the screens on the fourth floor, passing through these down a chute to a bin on the third floor. The main building of plant No. 3 is a four-story frame building. On the first floor is an equipment comprising three "Eagle" represses, special "Grant" auger machine, pulleys and shafting. On the second story are two Bucyrus pug-mills, one 12-ft. and one 16-ft. The clay descending from the storage bin on the third floor passes to the pug mills and thence into the brick machines on the floor below, which has 60,000 daily capacity. From the machine the brick are conveyed by car and transfer to the waste heat drier, which has 30 tracks, 15 tunnels and is 90 ft. long, having a capacity of 150,000 brick daily. Drying is effected in 24 hours. This waste heat system was installed by the New York Blower Co. and includes an 11-ft fan, direct connected to a 100-h. p. slide-valve engine. The heat is drawn from the kiln from below, it being maintained that this is cheaper to do than if taken from above, the initial construction work being less, and there being no loss from the rusting of the pipes, etc. From the drier tracks, turn tables and transfers are used to convey the goods to the kilns. There are six square 80-ft. down-draft kilns. In these the brick are set two over two and 29 high. Slanting grates are used throughout the plant. Seven days are occupied in watersmoking and burning. The heat is drawn from the kilns for six days after burning. In unloading the kilns the wickets are large enough to allow the street wagons to back right into the kiln. Power is furnished by a 250-h. p. Corliss engine, supplied with steam from a Heine boiler, also of 250-h.p., carrying 125 lb. pressure. We also noticed an installation of the Cochrane heater in both the No. 1 and No. 3 plants. The company does a large quantity of teaming into the city, about 40 teams being owned, the stock being cared for in commodious stables. The Laclede mascot of the stable is a patriarchal billy goat. About 50 teams are employed during the maximum business period.

It can well be imagined that the fuel bill of such an enormous plant would be no inconsiderable amount in the year's expense account. It is estimated that the company requires for the operation of its three plants about 5,000 bushels a day, or 250 tons. The water for the boilers is city water and the for tempering the clays is pumped from a deep well 760 ft. deep into a reservoir with a capacity of 50,000 gallons.

On plant No. 1, noticeable among the other stacks, is a steel and concrete stack 130 ft. high, which has now been constructed 15 months, and seems to be standing the weather well. We understand this is the first stack of this peculiar construction put up in the United States. The shipments of the plant for 1903 amounted to $750,000.

The company has a most comprehensive cost system installed which covers in separate sections the mining of the clay, the manufacturing of the green products, the drying, setting, burning, drawing and shipping. These main divisions are subdivided according to the necessity for each product. This system has been carefully brought to perfection by J. Munhall King, secretary of the company. Mr. King was previously connected with Jones, Caesar & Co.. and also with the Carnegie Co., of Pittsburg. He is an expert accountant and bookeeper. According to the unanimous opinion of the convivial members of the lunch table, and also upon the modest admission of Mr. King himself, he is a bachelor open for a leapyear proposition.

J. L. Green, the vice-president, son of James Green, has now been actively connected with the Laclede plant for five years. Previous to that time Mr. Green. jr., acquired considerable experience in the Helmbacher Forge & Rolling Mills. Mr. Green has a pleasant personality and has earned a well-merited reputation for hospitality.

The superintendent of the plant is Fred Talbot, who has been 17 years with the company, commencing at the bottom of the ladder in 1887 and occupying all positions with honor, up to his present one of superintendency, which he has held now for 18 months. Mr. Talbot is well known to the clay-workers who attend national conventions.

The company takes large contracts for the erection of coal gas benches, also water gas installations. Shipments of these products are made to all parts of the continent. Last year the Laclede products were furnished to important buildings in St. Louis, among which may be mentioned the Jefferson Hotel, the Missouri Pacific Bldg., the Frisco Bldg., the Star Bldg., the Women's Magazine Bldg., Fine Arts Museum, and the McKinney High School.

The office and buildings of all the plants are electrically lighted throughout.

There is one foreman to look after each plant and one general yard foreman. About 500 men are employed and the works are kept in operation the year through. The International Time Recorder Co. has installed a system in the Laclede plant, and every man is provided with a time card which keeps a record of his daily ingresses and egresses. By this means an absolute tab is kept on all time operations, in the labor department. There is is also a complete stock record kept of everything that is on the yard.


Bibliography Oral history Recorded history Photos
YOUR page External links Walking Tour

Bob Corbett