Brick Making (Pug Mill)
View of Colonial Brickyard Company workmen filling brick molds with clay at the Todd and Brown Brickyard, located behind the Williamsburg Inn, 1933. In the colonial period, clay was mixed and made pliant for brickmaking by adding water to clay pits and treading on it by foot. During the restoration of Colonial Williamsburg, however, clay was mixed in a “pug mill,” an industrial technology that came into use by the mid-nineteenth century. The pug mill (pictured as the tall, square, wood-paneled box under the lean-to) was powered by a horse or mule. The animal was harnessed and tethered to a long wooden lever, which connected to a vertical shaft within the pug mill. As the animal circled around the mill, the rotation of the wooden lever turned the vertical shaft within the mill, which was outfitted with blades and served as a mixing paddle. The paddle stirred and mixed the clay, while workmen periodically added water to the mixture to keep it at the right consistency for packing into brick molds (also known as clay molds). Once packed into molds, the clay bricks were then removed and set in the sun to dry. After a thorough drying process, bricks were fired in a brick kiln and allowed to cool, after which time they were ready for use. This Todd and Brown Brickyard was set up in an open area behind the Williamsburg Inn, where bricks were fashioned for use for the early restoration and building of Williamsburg. Today, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation's colonial Brickyard is located on Nicholson Street, in the area behind the Peyton Randolph House and Cabinetmaker's Shop.
In the eighteenth century, "bricks used for buildings of the town were burned on or near the site and were laid in a coarse oyster-shell lime mortar. The gray-green glaze seen on some headers was imparted by burning the bricks in a kiln fired with oakwood. Only those bricks nearest the heat acquired the glazed surface. The use of bricks rubbed down to a smooth surface or to a molded profile was a favorite means of imparting finish to a building."
(Source: A. Lawrence Kocher and Howard Dearstyne, Colonial Williamsburg: Its Buildings and Gardens, rev. ed. [Williamsburg, Va.: Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, 1961], 16).