Sepia Saturday 559. Eleventh in a series on my maternal German ancestors, the Stoutners, of Gloversville, Fulton Co., N.Y.
While my great-great grandmother Christina (Albeitz) Stoutner tended to the domestic side of the household, my great-great grandfather Andrew was earning a living as a brick manufacturer on the outskirts of Gloversville, Fulton Co., N.Y.
Although he appears to have worked as a laborer when he arrived in the U.S. in 1855, within five years Andrew had established brick making as his primary career — only turning to farming and commerce in his senior years as his working life wound down.
|Andrew Stoutner’s Occupation in US and NYS Censuses of Johnstown-Gloversvillle, Fulton Co., N.Y. — Source: FamiliySearch|
|1855 NYS census||Andrew Stoutner||22; In town 2 months on 30 June 1855||Laborer|
|1860 US census||Andrew Stoutner||26||Mechanic – Brick Maker|
|1865 NYS and 1870 US censuses||Andrew Stoutner||36/38||Brick Maker|
|1875 NYS and 1880 & 1900 US censuses||Andrew Stoutner||42/47/67||Brick Manufacturer|
|1905 NYS census||Andrew Stoutner||72||Farmer|
|1910 US census||Andrew Stoutner||77||Commerce|
Brick making in the 1800s
Brick making has a long history in the U.S., but really took off in the 1800s as a reliable, fireproof medium for building and home construction. An article titled “Brickmaking and Brickmakers” in the Encyclopedia of Philadelphia describes nineteenth century brick making:
“Brickmaking was a poor man’s game, as it required no capital to start with,” noted New York brickmaker James Wood in 1830. This was especially true early on, when firing bricks required only enough bricks to build a kiln and, most importantly, an abundance of clay.
The process of making bricks changed little from its origins through the mid-nineteenth century. Brickmakers dug the clay, allowed it to weather, tempered it, molded it, let it dry, then burned the bricks in a kiln….They then sorted the bricks by firmness and color.
Nineteenth century brick making practices
So my ancestor Andrew could have begun his brick manufacturing career as a modest enterprise, then expanded as business picked up — a common practice in the brick industry. Also, according to the article:
Brickmaking was frequently a family business, spanning generations. Mechanics who worked in the trade became brickyard owners, often in partnership with family members.
In fact, Andrew worked as a Mechanic in 1860, and by 1865 was a Brick Maker — and he later brought his oldest son William into the business once he was of age. So my great-great grandfather appears to have followed the standard practice of the time.
The building of Gloversville, N.Y.
Fortunately for Andrew, he arrived in the Gloversville, N.Y., area just as the need for bricks was ramping up. In the 1850s, with its proximity to hemlock forests, the Mohawk Valley town was a center for tanning and leather production — and there were already scores of glove making shops.
As the 1800s progressed, the glove industry grew and the bulk of those shops were brick structures — as were the stores, workshops and hotels near the bustling Four Corners intersection of E. Fulton and Main streets. No doubt some of the brick for those structures came from the Stoutner Brick Works.
No place like home
And there is perhaps no greater tribute to my great-great grandfather’s skill as a brick manufacturer than the family home Andrew built circa 1882 at 4 Wells Street, Gloversville, N.Y.
The bricks have been painted green, the original front porch has been removed, and a second story was added to the side room. But the basic brick structure erected by my German immigrant great-great grandfather Andrew Stoutner has stood the test of time — and is still going strong 131 years later!
More on the Stoutners and other ancestors in March. Please stop back! Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here.
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