Nineteenth Century Industries: Bricks and Ice


Brick mold

Brick making was an important industry on the east side of the Penobscot River and Bay, from the town of Penobscot (north of Castine) to Orrington and to Brewer, across the river from Bangor. Belfast also had a brickyard, as did many other towns. Making bricks required digging the right kinds of clays, mixing them with water, forming and drying them, then hardening them in a brick kilnKiln

An oven used to fire pottery or limestone.

Brewer had eleven brickyards in 1886, producing 9.4 million bricks. It took 3,500 cordsCordwood

Wood piled or stored in cords. One cord of wood is measured 4' x 4' x 8'. Cordwood was used extensively in the lime industry, which needed cordwood for kilns.
of wood to fire the bricks. Shipping the finished bricks depended on the water, and Brewer’s yards required 175 schoonersSchooner

A sailing vessel of two or more masts, all fore-and-aft rigged. The Thomas W. Lawson, built in 1902, had seven masts. In comparison to a square-rigged vessel of comparable tonnage, a schooner is better for coastwise sailing.
. Over half of Maine’s bricks were shipped south.

Growth of cities like Boston, as well as mid-century fires resulted in rising demand for brick. Locally, fires ravaged Rockland and Camden, whose commercial sections were rebuilt in brick. Brick became the fashion for other downtowns.


Cutting ice on Lilly Pond

Mainers were accustomed to using ice to keep food fresh, but it wasn’t until after the Civil War that shippers discovered how to transport ice to cities from Boston to Rio de Janeiro and as far away as India. Maine’s ice trade, centered on the Kennebec River, grew dramatically after a warm winter in 1860 ruined the ice harvest on the Hudson River, ice supplier to New York City. During the Civil War, the government needed ice for hospitals. From 1870 to 1890, there were only two years when Maine shipped less than 1 million tons of ice.

Brewer waterfront

In 1890 25,000 men and 10,900 horses worked in Maine’s ice industry. Once the ice could support weight, it was repeatedly scraped clean of insulating snow. When the ice was more than a foot thick, it was scoredScore scored

A scratch or thin carved line incised in a surface so that later pieces break apart along this line.
and cut with big ice saws. The blocks were then taken to an ice house for storage and insulated with sawdust. When spring and summer came, schooners carried the blocks in sawdust and sometimes with a load of hay to markets on the East Coast and beyond.

While ice was cut in many places around Penobscot Bay, the largest operations were in Rockport, Rockland, Belfast, and Brewer.