Claybank Brick Plant, 1898-1991

Identity area

Type of entity

Corporate body

Authorized form of name

Claybank Brick Plant, 1898-1991

Parallel form(s) of name

Standardized form(s) of name according to other rules

Other form(s) of name

  • Saskatchewan Clay Products (Claybank, Sask.)
  • Dominion Fire Brick and Clay Products Limited
  • Dominion Fire Brick and Clay Products (1954) Ltd.
  • A.P. Green Refractories (Canada) Ltd.
  • Moose Jaw Fire Brick and Pottery Company

Identifiers for corporate bodies

Description area

Dates of existence

1898-1991

History

The origins of the Claybank Brick Plant go back to 1886 when Tom McWilliams, a homesteader in the Claybank, Saskatchewan area, began mining heat-resistant or 'refractory' clay, on his property. This type of clay is well-suited for manufacturing fire brick, which is used to insulate boilers, fireplaces, furnaces, and other high-heat areas. In 1904 Mr. McWilliams entered into a formal agreement with the Moose Jaw Fire Brick and Pottery Company, which acquired the original McWilliams homestead plus other nearby clay deposits. Development of the property was hindered by lack of access to primary markets, but when the Canadian Northern Railway line was built in the district in 1910, the access problem was solved and plant construction could begin.

In 1912 the Moose Jaw Fire Brick and Pottery Company restructured, purchased Mr. McWilliams' shares, and became Saskatchewan Clay Products. (This was a private company that was not related to the Crown Corporation Saskatchewan Clay Products, which was founded in 1945.) The brick plant was completed in 1914, only to close until 1916 due to World War I and an economic recession.

The company was reopened in 1916 as Dominion Fire Brick and Clay Products Ltd. The revitalized company expanded its product line to include face brick and specialized firebrick. In the 1920s the company began producing high grade refractory tiles. These specialized tiles were used for flue and furnace linings, steam engine linings and locomotive arch bricks. This product helped the company survive the Depression. By 1938 the Claybank Brick Plant was the busiest in the province. During World War II, the company's products were used extensively by the Royal Canadian Navy in the construction of corvettes. By 1950 the plant was the largest in the province.

In 1954 the Claybank Brick Plant was purchased by the Alberta company Redcliffe Pressed Brick and renamed Dominion Fire Brick and Clay Products (1954) Limited. For the rest of its operating history, ownership of the plant would be from outside the province of Saskatchewan. In 1955 controlling interest in the company was purchased by A.P. Green Fire Brick Company of Mexico, Missouri. This company, one of North America's leading producers of refractory products, modernized the plant's operations. One of the first changes was the conversion of six of the ten beehive kilns to natural gas from the traditional lignite coal. This change meant the end of face brick production, as face brick got its coloring from the coal-fired kilns. The company was also losing market share for its refractory products, primarily because diesel locomotive engines were being adopted by the railroads. The company tried to compensate for these losses by aggressively selling other forms of fire brick, a technique that was only partially successful.

By 1962 A.P. Green had complete control of the Claybank Brick Plant, although the company continued to operate under the name Dominion Fire Brick and Clay Products until 1970. By 1971 the plant became known as a subsidiary of A.P. Green Refractories (Canada) Ltd. This full integration limited the plant's prospects and appears to have accelerated the plant's final economic decline. Dwindling markets, changing technologies, outmoded equipment and corporate downsizing all contributed to the plant's closure in 1989.

Following the closure of the plant in June 1989 the Province of Saskatchewan indicated its intention to designate the plant as a provincial heritage site. In 1992 A.P. Green donated the site, including the brick plant, machinery and equipment to the Saskatchewan Heritage Foundation. In 1996 the plant was declared a national historic site. In 1998 the Claybank Brick Plant was officially designated as Provincial Heritage property.

Places

Legal status

Functions, occupations and activities

Mandates/sources of authority

Internal structures/genealogy

General context

Relationships area

Related entity

Claybank Brick Plant National Historic Site

Identifier of related entity

Category of relationship

temporal

Dates of relationship

Description of relationship

Claybank Brick Plant National Historic Site is the successor of Claybank Brick Plant, 1898-1991

Access points area

Subject access points

Place access points

Occupations

Control area

Authority record identifier

PA 1

Institution identifier

Provincial Archives of Saskatchewan

Rules and/or conventions used

Rules for Archival Description (RAD)

Status

Final

Level of detail

Dates of creation, revision and deletion

Authority record created on 2007-12-22. Approved 2012-03-06. Last modified on 2017-11-29.

Language(s)

Script(s)

Sources

Accession file
"The Claybank Brick Plant: A Canadian Treasure" by Frank Korvemaker
Claybank Brick Plant, National Historic Site brochure
Claybank Brick Plant, An Historical Overview brochure
Claybank Brick Plant National Historic Site website
Claybank Brick Plant historical assessment, Ivan Saunders

Maintenance notes

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  • Export

  • EAC

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