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PD Murphy

Testing for clay origins

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24 minutes ago, PD Murphy said:

I have some clay roofing tiles from a historic building. The origin of the tiles is unknown, possibly Italy. Is there any way they can be tested to find the origin?

Thanks

PD Murphy 

If they were exported I think they would have to be marked with the country of origin.

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20 minutes ago, PD Murphy said:

The tiles are over 100 years old and there are no markings on them.  Sure would make it easier if there were!

Yeah if it's pre-1930 there was no official legislation mandating it.

But if they're that old, they probably weren't shipped around the world either.

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liam,  years ago, people with money traveled to europe and purchased whatever they liked and sent it home.   one house i visited in leesburg va was built around 1900 and had a tile floor that had been bought in italy and the tile setter was imported as well to do the finishing of the floor.   do not know whether he went back to italy after doing the work.

detroit had fountains that were bought right out of the city squares in italy and placed in parks as a memorial to the person who bought it.  some were very elaborately carved white marble.    i remember one on belle isle that must have covered an acre.

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30 minutes ago, oldlady said:

liam,  years ago, people with money traveled to europe and purchased whatever they liked and sent it home.   one house i visited in leesburg va was built around 1900 and had a tile floor that had been bought in italy and the tile setter was imported as well to do the finishing of the floor.   do not know whether he went back to italy after doing the work.

detroit had fountains that were bought right out of the city squares in italy and placed in parks as a memorial to the person who bought it.  some were very elaborately carved white marble.    i remember one on belle isle that must have covered an acre.

Those I could see bothering with.  Clay roofing tiles though?? In the 1800s? I guess anything is possible!

 

If they're not marked with origin, I guess you could have an Italian roof tile specialist look at or appraise it to see if it's Italian in origin.  I don't think there's any sort of DNA test you could do on it to determine it's origin scientifically

Edited by liambesaw

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PD

I have some historical knowledge, after retiring from 45 years of home building. There were several plants in the Us at one time, but most are gone because synethic materials have taken over the market. I believe the one in zflorida, and California are still operational there were brickyards in almost every state from the 1870,s until after WW2 because weight made it too hard to ship.many of those brickyards also made Terra Cotta roofing tiles. 

Most all tiles made in North America were the classic Terra Cotta orange because iron disulfide is the most common iron source here. Some deeper orange and reddish colors came out of NY, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Georgia because those areas have megnetite and hematite iron deposits. 

One notable difference in historic tiles was the nail punch pattern, In North America, a round single center punch was used. Ital, France, and Spain used a square punch, until the more recent decades. European tiles were generally thinner because they could fire higher because of the iron, American/ Mexican tile was thicker and fired lower.  

It is most likely locally made; and a good chance the brick yard that made it is long gone. Check with your local historical society. Pending the age; it could have been imported from Mexico as "Spanish" tile. The odds that it was imported are minimal. If it is a point of historic s importance: you could have a crushed sample analysis done and identify the iron source. 

 

Tom. 

 

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Hearst brought a few tons of building materials to California from across the pond.

The black clay here in Los Osos is quite sticky and plastic. There are places where the cracks are over thirty feet deep by early Fall, when the shrinkage peaks (a few miles from here - our house is on sand) ...wonder if the San Luis Obispo mission adobe is from here? Being curious,

"Roofing tiles, called tejas, were made from the same materials as the adobe bricks. A flat rectangle of clay was formed. It was then carefully placed over the round piece of a log which had been sanded so the clay wouldn’t stick to the wood. Some stories tell that the roof tiles were molded over the legs of the Indian workers, but other sources say that is just a legend.

After the clay was molded into the curved shape, it was dried in the sun for several days. Then the tile was baked in a kiln for many days. The baking at a high temperature caused the adobe clay to turn red.

Mission San Luis Obispo has been credited with the development of roofing tiles. Father Serra’s diaries, however, say that the first roofing tiles were made at Mission San Antonio de Padua. Mission San Luis Obispo then perfected the process. They made the tiles in large quantities and supplied them to other nearby missions. At San Luis Obispo, horses were kept walking in circles to mix the adobe clay with their hooves.

Some mission buildings had tiles on the floor. These floor tiles, called ladrillos, were made from a thicker mixture of adobe clay, straw, and water. They were molded in much the same manner as the adobe bricks, partially dried in the sun, and then baked in kilns to make them hard.

Adobe tiles were also used as water pipes at many missions, to carry the water from a river or stream to the mission compound, or to the fields for irrigation.

Pottery bowls and pots were made at the missions, though not in great quantities. Clay pots were not commonly made by the California Indians, who instead made excellent baskets which served their needs for storing food. However, in later years some missions had pottery wheels for making bowls."

"Because of flaming arrows, the mission was built with tiles; the first roof tiles made in California."

"To Mission San Luís Obispo goes credit for establishing the use of red tile roofs that became a symbol of the California missions. Though first used at Mission San Antonio de Padua, roofing tiles were perfected and produced on a large scale by Mission San Luís Obispo.  The roofing tiles were patterned on those remembered by the padres from their days in Spain.  Water and local clay was mixed by having horses walk around in circles through the clay, which was then formed over curved wooden molds of tree trunks, dried in the sun and baked in a kiln.  The tiles were about 22 inches in length and tapered from 12 to 20 inches in width. Water came from a nearby stream, and was used to power a gristmill. 

...

1769   Governor Portolá, on his way from San Diego north to Monterey, crossed a valley where grizzly bears were eating the tule roots in the marshy ground; named it La Cañada de los Osos (Valley of the Bears) and returned to the valley to get meat for the soldiers and missions.

1772   Father Serra founded the mission; left the next day to return to San Diego, leaving Father José Cavaller in charge of building a chapel, barracks, priests' house and workshops of logs and tules.

1773   Group of Spanish emigrants, including four families, arrived.

1776   Tule thatched roofs set on fire by flaming arrows; many buildings destroyed.

1792-1794  Construction of present church  with help from master Mexican craftsmen; made of adobe with tile roof."

 

Here's a detailed article (written 110 years ago):

http://web.nationalbuildingarts.org/collections/clay-products/clay-tile-roofing/brief-history-of-roofing-tile/

One could read about tile roofing all day.

:|

To the op, the answer is likely somewhere between maybe and yes.

That's more than enough from me!

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If you are really interested in a large-scale study, and have lots of money to throw at the analysis, then you could always conduct neutron activation analysis through my lab.  In reality, this would be a pretty expensive proposition, but you might like to look at the lab website just to get an idea of what a study like this could entail.  My day job is as an archaeologist with a partial appointment in the lab. 

archaeometry.missouri.edu

There are some other analytical options (such as XRF or ICP-MS), but they have generally lower precision and accuracy.

 

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This is a opportunity -You could start a Clay DNA business where folks can send in thier fired clay and get the full history like the business model thats exploding right now with human DNA.

Great time to get into the business-Just lket me know where to send in my bricks

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Wow! Thanks for all the responses. A little more info about the tiles. They come from the roof of "Castle In The Clouds" in Moultonborough NH. The exterior of the building is cut stone from Italy however the records concerning the roof tiles have been lost. I initially thought they were made here in NH but after learning about the imported stone I wondered if the tiles also came from Italy. I would be interested in learning more about crushing and testing. I would love to be the one to solve this mystery. 

 

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11 hours ago, fergusonjeff said:

If you are really interested in a large-scale study, and have lots of money to throw at the analysis, then you could always conduct neutron activation analysis through my lab.  In reality, this would be a pretty expensive proposition, but you might like to look at the lab website just to get an idea of what a study like this could entail.  My day job is as an archaeologist with a partial appointment in the lab. 

archaeometry.missouri.edu

There are some other analytical options (such as XRF or ICP-MS), but they have generally lower precision and accuracy.

 

Hi Jeff,

Interesting website, sure looks like what I was looking for. Would the analysis give me an idea of origin or just the elements in the clay?

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On 1/20/2020 at 11:40 PM, glazenerd said:

PD

I have some historical knowledge, after retiring from 45 years of home building. There were several plants in the Us at one time, but most are gone because synethic materials have taken over the market. I believe the one in zflorida, and California are still operational there were brickyards in almost every state from the 1870,s until after WW2 because weight made it too hard to ship.many of those brickyards also made Terra Cotta roofing tiles. 

Most all tiles made in North America were the classic Terra Cotta orange because iron disulfide is the most common iron source here. Some deeper orange and reddish colors came out of NY, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Georgia because those areas have megnetite and hematite iron deposits. 

One notable difference in historic tiles was the nail punch pattern, In North America, a round single center punch was used. Ital, France, and Spain used a square punch, until the more recent decades. European tiles were generally thinner because they could fire higher because of the iron, American/ Mexican tile was thicker and fired lower.  

It is most likely locally made; and a good chance the brick yard that made it is long gone. Check with your local historical society. Pending the age; it could have been imported from Mexico as "Spanish" tile. The odds that it was imported are minimal. If it is a point of historic s importance: you could have a crushed sample analysis done and identify the iron source. 

 

Tom. 

 

Hi Tom,

It is of historic importance. Do you have a source for where the analysis could be done? 

 

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The analysis we do just provides a compositional profile - usually about 33 elements.  Determining the origin is where it gets complicated.   You would need lots of known samples from potential sources and hope that the recipes are internally consistent (from the same source) and there is clear distinction between sources.  Ceramics do not work like obsidian.  I do a lot of work with obsidian (stone tool) sourcing as well, and in that case we can usually directly match an artifact to a specific geologic source.  Clays are way more complicated. 

As a side project, we recently completed a detailed analysis of a bunch of commercial clays as part of creating a calibration set for X-ray flourescence analysis.  We did not analyze mixed commercial clay bodies, but rather primary clays such cornwall stone, EPK, and RedArt.  If anyone really wants the data I think I should be able to share it. 

 

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Hey PD,

Bein' curious (and a touch of insomnia this a.m.), did some looking; Moltonborough Historical Society article* excerpts:

"Thomas Beal reports that much of the house materials were prepared at the Bath Iron Works where an outbuilding was used to fabricate the door and window frames as well as the decorative beams and rafters.  He believes the stones were shaped there also.  The workmen were, according to Thomas Beal, of French lineage, coming from an island near Sable Island and Halifax, Nova Scotia. However, his brother Philip Beal is sure that all building materials came from the property.  The five point building stones for the mansion and its stable were quarried and shaped on site by Italian immigrant workers, some of the material having been blasted from the house site and the rest from a quarry on the property.  Philip Beal also believes that all the timber was cut and processed on site, and remembers a sawmill operating there.  He definitely remembers his father John W. Beal talking about the quarry.

... 

“Lucknow” was undoubtedly one of their finest. Only the best materials were used.  The colored granite stone was quarried locally and shaped into five sided pieces.  The oak beams were reportedly fashioned and decorated by shipwrights in Maine and shipped by rail to Laconia, by boat to Moultonborough, and then by horse drawn wagon up the mountain.  The roof  tiles were from Spain, the fireplace marble from Italy, the leaded casement windows from England.  The best artisans from New York and Boston worked on the interior, including glass decorations by Tiffany Studios.  No expense was spared and when the project was complete it was reputed to have cost over $1,000,000, an extraordinary amount at that time. "

I'm not seeing the author credited in the link below (looks like Ann Hackl); perhaps the Historical Society can help you.

* http://www.moultonboroughhistory.org/MHS Articles & Tidbits/Articles/NEW INSIGHTS ON THE HISTORY OF CASTLE IN THE CLOUDS.html

See also:

Moltonborough library "Vertical File Finding Aids to Moultonborough History"

https://www.moultonboroughlibrary.org/mpl/documents/mboro vf synopsis.pdf

 

Cristina Ashjian's  "Plant's Castle Revisited: Country life at Lucknow" and "New England Arts & Crafts Architecture: Living in Harmony with Nature"

 

My guess is she and Ann Hackl are the authorities; I'd suggest reaching out to them..

 

from A Castle in the Clouds: Tom Plant and the American Dream

   "The Italian stonemasons came from Boston - despite a tale that Plant brought them from Europe."

   "The roof tiles were underlaid with copper sheathing."

https://issuu.com/altrescot/docs/castle_in_the_clouds

 

There's more, however, the sky's alight, time to get moving! Please give me a "like" - ok? ;)

article: https://issuu.com/thelaker/docs/laker_8_28l

article: http://www.moultonboroughhistory.org/MHS Newsletters/Newsletter Archive/2004/Apr 2004 NewsLetter.pdf

 

 

 

 

Edited by Hulk
oops, forgot to provide link to that scanned book...

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22 hours ago, PD Murphy said:

They come from the roof of "Castle In The Clouds" in Moultonborough NH.

Wow---I am now ashamed to admit that I live in NH (Lakes Region) and have never been to Castle in the Clouds! I go through Moultonborough frequently, on my way to see friends in Conway. Will be rectifying that soon, for sure! PS-you mentioned "here in NH"--where 'bouts are you based?--just curious.

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9 hours ago, Hulk said:

Hey PD,

Bein' curious (and a touch of insomnia this a.m.), did some looking; Moltonborough Historical Society article* excerpts:

"Thomas Beal reports that much of the house materials were prepared at the Bath Iron Works where an outbuilding was used to fabricate the door and window frames as well as the decorative beams and rafters.  He believes the stones were shaped there also.  The workmen were, according to Thomas Beal, of French lineage, coming from an island near Sable Island and Halifax, Nova Scotia. However, his brother Philip Beal is sure that all building materials came from the property.  The five point building stones for the mansion and its stable were quarried and shaped on site by Italian immigrant workers, some of the material having been blasted from the house site and the rest from a quarry on the property.  Philip Beal also believes that all the timber was cut and processed on site, and remembers a sawmill operating there.  He definitely remembers his father John W. Beal talking about the quarry.

... 

“Lucknow” was undoubtedly one of their finest. Only the best materials were used.  The colored granite stone was quarried locally and shaped into five sided pieces.  The oak beams were reportedly fashioned and decorated by shipwrights in Maine and shipped by rail to Laconia, by boat to Moultonborough, and then by horse drawn wagon up the mountain.  The roof  tiles were from Spain, the fireplace marble from Italy, the leaded casement windows from England.  The best artisans from New York and Boston worked on the interior, including glass decorations by Tiffany Studios.  No expense was spared and when the project was complete it was reputed to have cost over $1,000,000, an extraordinary amount at that time. "

I'm not seeing the author credited in the link below (looks like Ann Hackl); perhaps the Historical Society can help you.

* http://www.moultonboroughhistory.org/MHS Articles & Tidbits/Articles/NEW INSIGHTS ON THE HISTORY OF CASTLE IN THE CLOUDS.html

See also:

Moltonborough library "Vertical File Finding Aids to Moultonborough History"

https://www.moultonboroughlibrary.org/mpl/documents/mboro vf synopsis.pdf

 

Cristina Ashjian's  "Plant's Castle Revisited: Country life at Lucknow" and "New England Arts & Crafts Architecture: Living in Harmony with Nature"

 

My guess is she and Ann Hackl are the authorities; I'd suggest reaching out to them..

 

from A Castle in the Clouds: Tom Plant and the American Dream

   "The Italian stonemasons came from Boston - despite a tale that Plant brought them from Europe."

   "The roof tiles were underlaid with copper sheathing."

https://issuu.com/altrescot/docs/castle_in_the_clouds

 

There's more, however, the sky's alight, time to get moving! Please give me a "like" - ok? ;)

article: https://issuu.com/thelaker/docs/laker_8_28l

article: http://www.moultonboroughhistory.org/MHS Newsletters/Newsletter Archive/2004/Apr 2004 NewsLetter.pdf

 

 

 

 

Well Tom I must say you went above and beyond the call of duty with your research. I will definitely use your resources to continue the search. Sorry about your insomnia.

Thanks.  PD Murphy 

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2 hours ago, LeeU said:

Wow---I am now ashamed to admit that I live in NH (Lakes Region) and have never been to Castle in the Clouds! I go through Moultonborough frequently, on my way to see friends in Conway. Will be rectifying that soon, for sure! PS-you mentioned "here in NH"--where 'bouts are you based?--just curious.

I live just outside of Concord. If you visit "the castle" you won't be disappointed. It's pretty cool.

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11 hours ago, fergusonjeff said:

The analysis we do just provides a compositional profile - usually about 33 elements.  Determining the origin is where it gets complicated.   You would need lots of known samples from potential sources and hope that the recipes are internally consistent (from the same source) and there is clear distinction between sources.  Ceramics do not work like obsidian.  I do a lot of work with obsidian (stone tool) sourcing as well, and in that case we can usually directly match an artifact to a specific geologic source.  Clays are way more complicated. 

As a side project, we recently completed a detailed analysis of a bunch of commercial clays as part of creating a calibration set for X-ray flourescence analysis.  We did not analyze mixed commercial clay bodies, but rather primary clays such cornwall stone, EPK, and RedArt.  If anyone really wants the data I think I should be able to share it. 

 

Thanks for all the information Jeff. It sounds like you could tell me what the tiles are made of but not where they come from. I would think that the information you could provide would be helpful if the tiles needed to be replicated?

 

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