North American Brick, Tile and Pottery Company

North American Brick, Tile and Pottery Company area.


The North American Brick, Tile and Pottery Company was part of the industry surrounding the Town of Walsh, and was built and running while the North American Mine was being excavated. The company was incorporated October 20, 1910, and its articles of incorporation are featured in the Duluth Herald of that week, also linked in the Newspaper Articles section below. Thomas J. Walsh owned the tract of land that the North American Brick, Tile and Pottery Company factory was situated on, and so the company paid him royalties on the property, to the tune of $27,000 per year.

Progress on the factory was made quickly – equipment was purchased in March of 1911, and by late June of 1911 the plant was producing bricks. The factory was shipping bricks by late August of 1911, the first shipment going to Eveleth by train.

The company claimed to be able to create 100,000-150,000 bricks per day at full capacity of the plant.

The factory’s property spanned 120 acres of decomposed slate shale that was determined to be of the purest quality for the manufacture of “blood red building and face brick, Spanish red tile for roofing, vitrified paving brick, sewer pipe and all varieties of red pottery.” The North American Hotel nearby was originally planned to have a stucco exterior, but upon completion of the brick plant, plans changed to using brick from the factory instead. Buildings in Walsh were planned to be built from the brick as well.

A layer of peat covers the shale and so the peat was used as fuel for the plant. There were also plans to use the peat for heating in the Town of Walsh once buildings were built.




The North American Brick, Tile and Pottery Company was located across the North American Road from the North American Mine, to the northeast, tucked into a series of bends on the East Two River. There is a pond near the factory where clay was extracted.



St. Louis County Land Explorer - Tower Junction environs Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps - Tower, MN - October 1921

A view of the North American Mine and its environs, including the North American Brick, Tile and Pottery Company.

A Sanborn Fire Insurance Company map excerpt shows the company’s factory buildings. This excerpt needs to be rotated 90 degrees clockwise to match its orientation on the St. Louis County Land Explorer.



The fireplace of the North American Brick, Tile and Pottery Company. The fireplace of the North American Brick, Tile and Pottery Company.

Photos of the fireplace shown in the antique photo above. The chimney atop it was made of iron, and was removed when the factory was dismantled.


Part of a building of the North American Brick, Tile and Pottery Company.

These seem to be mounting pads for the engine, based on the Sanborn Fire Insurance Company map above.


Panoramic of a building of the North American Brick, Tile and Pottery Company. Panoramic of part of a building of the North American Brick, Tile and Pottery Company.

Panoramic views of the building with the fireplace and engine mounts, and part of the wall around the building.


Panoramic of another building of the North American Brick, Tile and Pottery Company.

Panoramic view of the dry kiln section of the factory, displaying the narrow rows.


North American Mine - Looking E from the road to the Town of Walsh.

View of the North American Mine shaft, facing east on the road to the Town of Walsh. The North American Brick, Tile and Pottery Company is marked by the chimney in the distance.


Newspaper Articles

The Duluth herald, Vol 28, No 169 – October 22, 1910
Legal Notices
Certificate of Incorporation of North American Brick, Tile and Pottery Company

The Duluth herald, Vol 28, No 280 – March 1, 1911
Part of Red Cliff Mill Equipment Sold.
The 200-horse power boilers, one 1,500-horse power engine and a 700-light dynamo, part of the machinery of the Red Cliff Lumber company’s West Duluth mill, which recently suspended, were purchased yesterday by the North American Brick, Tile and Pottery company of Walsh, Minn. The Walsh concern was recently organized to manufacture common, pressed and vitrified brick, roofing, sewer pipe and other products. The machinery will be shipped to Walsh as soon as it can be loaded.

The Duluth herald, Vol 28, No 284 – March 6, 1911
Tower, Minn., March 6. — (Special to The Herald.) — Work commenced today on the brick, tile and pottery works at Tower Junction. Material is arriving at frequent Intervals and by spring a plant of large proportions will be ready for business. It is expected that the capacity for bricks will be 100,000 per day. A large force of men will be employed.

Tower weekly news, Vol 12, No 1 – June 2, 1911
Mine Wealth of the Vermilion
Hidden Iron Treasure of Our Great Range Being Sought by Large Numbers
The North American property promises to yield not only iron ore and gold, but there is a large deposit of shale in one part of the swamp which is to provide material for the operation of a large brick, tile and pottery plant. The machinery is installed for turning out 150,000 brick per day. The shale deposit is covered by a peat bed, and the peat is to be used for fuel.

Tower weekly news, Vol 12, No 4 – June 23, 1911
New Brick Plant is in Operation
First Brick Turned Out Yesterday — Work Will Begin in Earnest Monday
The first brick to be made at the new brick plant of the North American Brick, Tile & Pottery company, near Tower Junction, were turned out yesterday. Several days will elapse before the plant will be running full blast as the machinery must be adjusted and a few minor changes made. It is expected to have everything running smoothly by the first of next week. This new industry will give employment to a large number of men the year around.
The company’s property includes an immense area of decomposed slate shale, covering a deposit of 120 acres and of a known depth of 47 feet with an overburden of from 4 to 10 feet. This shale, or clay, from an analysis, has been found to be of purest quality for the manufacture of blood red building and face brick, Spanish red tile for roofing, vitrified paving brick, sewer pipe and all varieties of red pottery.
The plant covers a large ground space, the main building when finished will be of brick 88×105 feet where the power plants, boilers and engine are located dry house building is 54×85 feet and a battery of 40 down draft kilns completes the equipment for the one unit, the manufacturing of facing and building brick. The other units, tile and pottery, will be added later on. The equipment of the plant is up to the minute, having every modern device known to the art of clay working such as Freese Disintegartor and automatic cutters, including the Drymore system, with 12 tunnel steam dryer the smoke stack is 48 inches in diameter and stands 108 feet high. The clay will be mined by the steam shovel process and the brick manufactured by what is known as the Stiff Mud plant system. The superintendent of the brick, tile and pottery department is Joseph Wild, who has had many year’s experience in brick, tile and hollow ware plants in many sections of the country.

Duluth herald, Vol 29, No 98 – Aug 1, 1911

New Town of Walsh Growing Very Fast

It Has an Iron Mine, a Great Brick Plant and a Four-Story Hotel.
Number of Brick Blocks to Go Up as Soon as Material Can Be Had.

It is doubtful that any other town in Northern Minnesota during the next year will equal the growth of the town of Walsh, on the Duluth & Iron Range railroad which adjoins Tower Junction and is about a mile from the Soudan mine, the first producing mine on the Vermilion range. By the first of the year, Walsh will have a producing iron mine of its own, in addition to an immense brick, tile and pottery plant, which is already in operation. Other industries are planned for.

A fine four-story hotel is being completed and as fast as building brick can be had from the new plant a bank building, general store, a drug store and a meat market will be built. At the price at which brick are to be had at Walsh it is cheaper to erect buildings of brick than of wood. Meanwhile, seven houses have been purchased in Tower, a mile away, and will be removed to Walsh bodily. So many people are coming to Walsh that they cannot wait to put up all the buildings needed. When in full operation the brick plant alone will employ 500 to 600 men and the North American mine nearly as many more. The First State Bank of Walsh is being organized by Minneapolis interests and will occupy its own brick building. It will be ready for business before the first of the year. By that time the North American mine will be stockpiling ore and getting ready to ship. Quite a number of employees of the mine and the brick plant are going to build as soon as they can get the brick.

Ross and Scribner streets are the two main business thoroughfares. Other streets are McCormack, Boden, and Melges streets, and Pillsbury, Briggs, Smead, and Chamberlain avenues. The greater part of the lots in the townsite were snapped up at $250 each by stockholders in the various Walsh enterprises, who had the first chance to purchase. Walsh is on a plateau overlooking the mine and brick and tile plant, just far enough away to escape the smoke and soot, but only a few minutes walk for the worker. Homecrofters will be delighted with the chances for gardens. Heavy loam here will grow anything, and is wonderfully productive of garden truck.

Walsh in one the main line of the Duluth & Iron Range railroad, which will erect a brick station as soon as it can get the brick from the North American plant, which it will be able to do inside sixty days. The railroad company has run a sidetrack to the North American mine, a side track to the brick and tile plant and a third side track for shipping purposes to the brick kilns. So far two temporary kilns have been constructed and burned, turning out about 225,000 beautiful, smooth red brick, which are being used for permanent kilns and building as the plant. These will be completed shortly and then the plant will turn out 150,000 brick per day, sufficient to supply the heavy demands for building in Walsh in short order.

When the plant of the North American Brick, Tile and Pottery company is in full operation it will be the largest plant of its kind in the state. A great body of shale underlies 120 acres at this point. It is forty-eight feet in depth and only three to ten feet of stripping has to be done. The stripping will be accomplished with a steam shovel, which will also load the clay into cars. Here is the largest brick making machine in the world, having a capacity of 150,000 bricks per day, having a value of output of $1,500 to $6,000 per day, depending upon whether the product is plain building brick, worth $10 per thousand, or vitrified paving brick worth $40 per thousand. One half of the first dry house, which will care for 60,000 brick, is in use, and the other half is being completed. The second dry house will be larger, having a holding capacity of 90,000. It takes twenty-four hours to dry out the brick before putting them in kilns to be burnt. The two dry houses in twenty-four hours will then take care of the 150,000 brick the great machine can turn out in a working day of ten hours. Labor saving machinery is in evidence everywhere about the plant, which will turn out the maximum of product at a minimum of cost. Tracks lead from the clay pit up to the pug mill. Up these the cars of clay are hauled by a wire cable. From the pug mill and the brick machine an endless belt carries the brick on to tables, from which they are picked at three points and loaded on trucks running on tracks into the dry house. Trucks on tracks again carry the brick to the kilns. From the kilns the brick are loaded directly on cars on the Duluth & Iron Range railroad.

This monster plant will turn out common building brick, pressed brick, hollow brick, vitrified paving brick, sewer pipe, roofing tiles and all kinds of drain tiles – in fact, everything in brick, tile and terra cotta except fire brick, the clay containing too much hematite for fire brick. Some idea of the value of this great body of shale may be had from the fact that the North American Brick, Tile & Pottery company pays a royalty of $27,000 per year to T. J. Walsh, the owner of the property. With rare magnanimity Mr. Walsh has assigned this royalty to the stockholders of the North American Iron Mining company. Since only $100,000 of the treasury stock of the North American Mining company was issued, the shareholders will have a rich dividend from the brick royalty, not to mention the iron and gold which are known to exist in great quantities in the North American mine.

Capt. Thomas A McDougall of Duluth is president of the North American Brick, Tile and Pottery company. The superintendent is John Wild, formerly of Morton, Minn., an experienced brick maker with twenty years of a successful record behind him. His son, John Wild, Jr., is assistant superintendent. Mr. Wild told the writer he could turn out all colors of brick from the clay from green to brown. The company’s specialty, however, will be a blood red brick, very handsome for building purposes. The company has arranged for railroad rates to the Twin Cities, which will enable it to ship that distance at a handsome profit, but its product is in such demand nearer home that it will have to go farther than Duluth for a market. One order from Duluth has been booked for 5,000,000 brick. Other orders have come in from International Falls, Virginia, Eveleth, Tower and Ely. There is an enormous market for brick on the iron ranges and in Duluth and Superior, and when these markets are supplied, there are the Twin Cities to fall back on.

Nature has been kind toward brick-making at Walsh. The shale is overlaid with peat which will keep the shale from freezing in winter, so that the plant can be operated the year round. The shale will only be stripped as used. The peat overlying the shale is also to be turned to account. Archie McMillan of Chicago, has a process for turning peat into gas. He has experimented with the peat from Walsh and guarantees to produce fuel gas at the town site at a cost of two mills per horse power, which would give Walsh the cheapest power known. This gas will furnish fuel for the 350-horse power engine of the brick plant, the dry houses and for burning the brick, tile and pottery. It will also be used for fuel by the North American Iron Mining company and for heating the entire town of Walsh, doing away with coal.

The hotel will be completed in October. It should be open now, but the builders have been delayed for want of slate for roofing. The hotel is on a hillside overlooking all of the townsite and with a splendid view on the surrounding country. It is four stories in height on one side and three on the other. It will have forty-eight guest rooms and two dining rooms, one for transients and the other for miners and brickmakers. It will have a large, handsome lobby and a big, old fashioned fire-place in which logs will be burned in winter. Downstairs it will be finished in dark oak. The bar room will have a tiled floor. There are bath rooms on every floor, and hot and cold running water in every room. The hotel is being erected by the North American Hotel company, principally Minneapolis capital. The hotel will be conducted by Louis Peterson of Minneapolis, one of the owners, who is overseeing the construction of the building and has been in Walsh for some time. The North American hotel will cater principally to summer guests, although it will be open all the year. Mr. Peterson says he could have the hotel full of guests now, if it were finished. The hotel, equipped, will have cost $45,000 to $50,000, and is one of the finest in Northern Minnesota outside of Duluth. It will have a barber shop and billiard room. Everything will be modern. In the kitchen labor saving appliances, such as steam cookers and dish-washing machines, will be used.

So many people are interested in the situation at the North American mine that it is told about along with the other Walsh properties in the review of the Vermilion range on the preceeding page.

The Virginia enterprise, Vol 19, No 29 – August 25, 1911
Local News.
The first carload of brick from the new brick plant at Walsh, near Tower, was shipped on Saturday last, being consigned to Eveleth. The plant is now running full force and is turning out a brick of superior quality.