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The Bridgeport Brick Industry
Memories of Ann Mann Nimmo
Click Photos For Larger View
The original manufacture of building bricks began in Bridgeport as a by-product of the coal mining industry. The veins of coal lay under a layer of rock beneath about sixty feet of earth. Directly above the coal was a layer of shale, and both rock and shale had to be removed before the coal could be taken out. This resulted in huge piles of shale being brought up and dumped near the mine entrances. The shale went from being an irritant to a resource when someone recognized its worth as the raw material for making brick. However, this easily accessed source of material dried up as soon as the mines closed. Even though the plants may not have been adjacent to some of the piles of shale, it was hauled by wagon to the brick plants. Today it is difficult to find any of the mine shale piles. They have all been used up. The brick plant now digs its own shale for brick making.

A brick plant was first built in Bridgeport in 1906. It was a dry-press plant that soon became a stiff-mud operation. This was the Wise County Brick Company. This company purchased a title company in Nebraska in 1911. In 1916 it was moved to Bridgeport. These plants were operating in the area shown by the map on the left side of ths page. [Click on map to enlarge] This is north of the present downtown Bridgeport. In 1918 the plants moved again, this time to the present Acme site. The principle owner at this time was C.W. Martin. He went on to form Bridgeport Brick Company in 1921. By 1924 he had proceesed to purchase several other plants scattered across the country. In 1930 Martin's Bridgeport Brick went under. Acme took all of the Martin plants in North Texas. Acme retained all employees.

My grandfather, J. H. (Jim) Mann, was superintendent of the Bridgeport Brick Company plant when it went under and Acme took over.

Ultimately Acme seeing a turn-around coming in the economics of the time put my grandfather to work overseeing the refurbishing of the brick plant. The Bridgeport Brick plant went back into operation in 1935 and has been in operation ever since. One of the few times Acme had labor problems at the Bridgeport plant was in the 1940's when there was a strike of several months. Feeling was very strong for a while. My grandfather took to wearing a gun on his hip. The labor dispute was finally settled. Acme says they were never anti-labor but anti-union.

The community reflects the presence of the brick plant in a couple of ways over time. There are houses in town that are all masonry. This means that all the walls are brick that has been plastered and the floors are concrete. This makes them fire resistant. One is located at 1509 Thompson, south of Eastside Grocery. It had a coal shaft in the back yard. The old Bridgeport Hospital that was torn down to make way for the new post office was also built in an unsual way due to the developments at Acme Brick. The building had a cement slab on a pier and beam foundation. This was made possible by the development of a tile and concrete beam that could carry the weight of the building and let the slab float. For whatever reason this building technique was not pursued. Bridgeport Common Brick was a staple of production for years. It was red with black spots. You can spot them all over. They are no longer in production. The Bridgeport Plant has been upgraded several times as technology has advanced. Most of the bricks produced today go into the building of new homes in the Texas area. This is due to the fact that commerical construction uses an eight-inch brick and the Bridgeport Brick is eleven inches long. Production has grown from 28 million high-grade face brick in 1974 to 54 million in the year 2000. The brick have been over sold for several years and the production rate is at a maxium.
Photos by Ione Smith
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