TAGHS Learns About Bricks at February Meeting

February 17, 2017 - Not only was the display at the February Timpson Area Genealogical and Heritage Society meeting interesting, it was durable...and heavy!  Speaker John Langston, a knowlegable brick collector, dutifully lugged many of his most unusual and interesting bricks to the Timpson Library last Wednesday to illustrate his talk to members and guests.

Langston's great-great grandfather came to East Texas just before the Civil War, settling in Millville, northwest of Henderson. John's ancestors' home is now gone, as is Millville, but he was able to salvage a brick from the ruins of the fireplace which he displayed as one of the first in his collection. “Brick collecting is addictive” said Langston, and he and his wife Patti were soon scouring old building sites and travelling hundreds of miles to brick swap meets to add to their collection.

In addition to its rarity or age, a brick's connection to history also interests Langston. He displayed a Ka-ton-ka brick which was made near the Ka-ton-ka Indian Remedy factory in Pennsylvania, even bringing along an antique Ka-ton-ka Indian Remedy bottle for display. 19th Century Kansas physician Dr. Samuel Crumrine was so concerned with public health that he convinced brick makers to press “Don't Spit on the Sidewalk” into their pavers as a warning. John displayed one of these but said he has never even seen the rarer “Kill the Flies” brick. Langston was quick to advise his audience that the swastika brick he displayed had nothing to do with Nazi Germany and was, in fact, produced in Jacksonville about 1890. “The swastika emblem on these bricks was made up of four “L”s radiating from the center, which stood for Light, Life, Love, and Luck” he explained.

The oldest bricks in Mr. Langston's collection are some Roman floor tiles from the Third Century A.D. Shaped more like a crescent than a rectangle, these pavers were found in
Serbia and brought to the U.S. Of particular interest to Shelby County historians was the  NOT&SON brick made by a supplier of material for the Shelby County Courthouse.   “J.J.E. Gibson, the architect of the courthouse, made many of the bricks used in its construction. Others were made by N.O. Thomas and Son and feature the NOT&SON imprint”. It was emphasized that this brick had not been removed from the historical building itself!

So many different types of brick have been made by so many different manufacturers over the centuries that a comprehensive list is virtually impossible, but that hasn't stopped collector and author Jim Graves from attempting to do so in his “monumental work”, Brick Brands of the United States, Langston explained.  Even though this book contains over 20,000 entries, previously unknown types are still being discovered. “Finding a type of brick no one has documented before is the Holy Grail of all collectors” Langston said. “If you can do that, you've really done something,” he revealed. Like most serious brick collectors, Mr. and Mrs. Langston are members of the International Brick Collectors Association and have a website (www.bricknames.com) featuring their collection of over 700 different brick types.

The TAGHS meeting was well attended, including many of the Langstons' fellow collectors from as far away as Rosebud, Texas. At the close of Mr. Langston's program friends presented him with an NOT&SONS brick, which he had been seeking. Following the meeting, Mr. Langston's work was not over. He still had to lug his display back to his vehicle and take it home!

TAGHS meets the third Wednesday of each month at 2:00 PM in the meeting room of the Timpson Public Library on the corner of Austin and Bremond Streets. The public is invited.