Brickmaking in the Late Nineteenth Century
Expanding infrastructure and advancing technology led to a number of advances in brickmaking after the Civil War. These processes included dry-pressing, in which denser clay is compressed using steam-powered equipment, and extruding, in which the mold is abandoned for extruded clay cut with wires. In buildings, New Orleans saw entirely new materials like terra cotta and cast-iron storefronts. In New Orleans cemeteries, terra cotta was never established as a structural material. However, cast-iron companies like Wood, Miltenberger & Co. expanded their market by building catalog-ordered iron tombs. New Orleans has more than one dozen of these tombs remaining.
In cemeteries, red river brick was almost entirely phased out, although many brickyards still produced them. Many bricks found in tombs of this era show different variations in color, texture, and inclusions, but much are similar to “hard tans,” indicating sources in St. Tammany Parish. This is likely, as even more brickyards developed there after 1865.
New Materials and Methods
From the turn of the century, industrialized building materials inched further and further into the New Orleans cemetery landscape. Most notably, modern cements became more and more available until, after World War II, they were the norm. This meant Portland cement stucco replacing lime. But it also meant the rise of cast concrete, cast stone, and concrete block. A notable example of this was Dognibene Architectural Cast Stone, a company that seems to have dealt primarily with garden features and pottery, but also built tombs. Three Dognibene tombs are known to exist from the 1920s: Two in Hook and Ladder Cemetery (Gretna), and one in Cypress Grove Cemetery.
Oak and Laurel Cemetery Preservation, LLC only uses historically-appropriate brick for repairs. Where brick must be replaced, brick of similar density and dimension is chosen – we do not salvage bricks from other cemeteries or tombs. You never know who will come back to care for their historic burial place.
 American Engineer, Vol. 16 (July 1888), 13.
 “Tammany Steam Brick Yard,” Times Picayune, December 24, 1871, 15; “Lake Brick for Sale,” St. Tammany Farmer, October 24, 1908.
 “History of St. Joe Brick Works,” http://www.stjoebrickworks.com/history.html; Dave Macnamara, “Heart of Louisiana: St. Joe Brick Works,” Fox 8 Live, January 11, 2013, http://www.fox8live.com/story/19517618/heart-of-louisiana-st-joe-brickworks.