American Brick Collection
Gift of Raymond Chase
Donated in 1994
The American Brick Collection contains 1,500 bricks, which total to about 10,000 pounds. Each brick is stamped with the manufacturer's name, logo, or hometown.
Brick is one of the oldest and most enduring man-made building materials. Sun-dried mud brick, or adobe, appeared about 10,000 years ago, and the earliest kiln-fired or clay-baked brick dates to 3,500 BC. This marked the first time humans were able to construct permanent, fireproof structures without stone.
Since at least 1611, when English brickmakers were recruited to Virginia, fired brick has been part of the North American landscape. Indelibly tied to the colonial era, brick came to define the nation’s industrial age and remains linked to contemporary notions of the American factory, school, and single-family house. Although once manufactured with incredible variety, brick production today is far more limited because the material is no longer used structurally, but rather as veneer.
A labor of love, the Museum's extensive American Brick Collection was amassed by Raymond Chase over 24 years. The collection now holds some 1,800 decorative, face, fire, paving, pressed, and common bricks from around the nation. And unlike the country's anonymous army of bricklayers, many of these late-19th and early 20th-century brick are branded with the name or location of their originating brickyard, or a distinguishing mark.