The trouble began with this sentence, from Eric Gill’s An Essay on Typography:
A man at whom twenty brick manufacturers throw bricks from every side at once is quite unable to distinguish the qualities in which “Blue Staffordshires” are superior to “London Stocks.”
Hold on…Blue Staffordshires? London Stocks? Bricks came in various types that had names, like ornamental chickens or oysters? I had to know more.
Easiest to find was information on Staffordshire Blue brick, which seems to be the preferred name, perhaps to distinguish them from Blue Staffordshire terriers, which are something else entirely. It was developed in Staffordshire, England, made from red clay that turns blue when fired at high temperatures in low oxygen, and is quite handsome as brick goes.
An online visit to [Ketley Bricks] revealed other varieties: Staffordshire Reds, Staffordshire Brown Brindles. [The Belden Brick Company] vends Belcrest Blacks, Black Diamond Velours, Ebony Black Smooths, Marigold Blends, Nutmeg Velours, Frosted Whites, Arctic Clears, Century Reds, Winewood Blends, and Sea Gray Smooths. Swing by [Triangle Brick] and you could pick up some Bessemer Greys or Coventry Ironspots or Texas Red Commons. Taylor Clay Products offers some choice Oyster Grey Ironspots and Blue Steels, which as a boy I understood to be Texas slang for a hard-on, though I could be wrong about that. Taylor also sells a brick called Black Onyx. I have no use for bricks, but I’m tempted to buy a Black Onyx.
Then, of course, I had to know more about the language of bricks. Bricks come in grades, which reminded me that more than once I’ve worked for a third-class brick. There are unburnt bricks, burnt bricks, and Jhama bricks, not to mention sand lime bricks and fly ash clay bricks. There are channel bricks, airbricks, coping bricks (I’ve had ex-girlfriends toss a few of those at me), bullnose bricks, and cow nose bricks, which are actually bricks with double bullnoses, just to be clear.
Surely people collect these things? Uh, yup—meet the [International Brick Collectors Association], “a place where you’ll meet the nicest people on earth.” Nice people with meaty forearms, I assume, from hauling their collections to brick swaps. Yes, there are brick swaps, in places like Minden, Louisiana and Cody, Wyoming. Oh, and there’s [The Official International Brick Collectors Association], which makes me wonder if the first IBCA is a schismatic group? They don’t seem to have the resources of the OIBCA, which dispenses this bit of life advice: “Next time you pick up a brick, take a second. It may also be a collector’s item.” My favorite thing by far is OIBCA’s brick gallery; I highjacked the image at the top of this post from the Ohio section.
I swear, this ate no more than an hour of my day. Maybe 90 minutes, tops.
Life is an unending marvel.