05 January 2021

New Jersey Shale Brick and Tile Corp. (1954 - 1988)

"Here in the middle of the world's richest market is an industrially-minded municipality eager to satisfy your plant requirements. New and realistic zoning ordinances are in effect. An example is the ordinance for industrial parks which is designed for the maximum freedom of operation of the developer."

By the time the above sales pitch appeared in the Somerville Area Chamber of Commerce 1966 Annual, the Hillsborough Industrial Commission had already been touting the township as a center for industrial development for two decades. 


22 August 1954 Home News

One of the first big industrial concerns to locate in Hillsborough was the newly-formed New Jersey Shale Brick and Tile Corporation. In 1954 they built a 40,000 square foot plant on the north side of Hamilton Road in what used to be called the Hamilton Station area of Hillsborough. This was the first completely mechanized continuos-tunnel kiln plant in New Jersey.

2 April 1961 Home News

The plant was designed to produce shale face brick as well as acid-resistant ceramic products and structural glazed tile. Although the raw material was mined on-site, this was no deep pit operation.  Significant deposits of two different types of shale were "contour-stripped" from the surface of what would eventually be expanded to a property of over 200 acres - leaving no deep craters.

2 April 1961 Home News

Principals promised there would be no loud blasting, smoke, or dust. The shale was scooped up by power shovels, crushed to small particles, and eventually into a fine powder. After being mixed with water and essential chemical agents, the mud-like substance was forced through a machine that extruded a long ribbon 8 inches wide and 4 inches thick. This would then be sliced twenty bricks at a time and be stacked by workers to go off to the kiln for drying. By 1961 the plant was producing 100,000 bricks per day. 

Finished bricks being loaded onto a trailer.
Notice the Three Little Pigs inspired logo and the company slogan, 
"Be Smart - Build With Brick".
2 April 1961 Home News

Although the shale brick produced in Hillsborough cost about 10% more, it was both harder and smoother than traditional products. One of the first local uses was for the 1957 addition to the Hillsborough Consolidated School on Route 206 (now known as Hillsborough Elementary School). It was also used in the construction of the Manville High School in 1959.

22 October 1964 Home News

Ten years after beginning operation, New Jersey Shale Brick and Tile was still the only producer of shale brick in New Jersey and began an expansion program to double yearly output from 25 million to 50 million bricks. The plant, which operated 24 hours a day, seven days a week, was also expected to double its full-time employees from 60 to 120. The expansion also allowed the company to manufacture a new line of ceramic glazed brick which no other company in the east was producing.

7 April 1973 Courier News

Many of the jobs at the plant required no previous experience and specialized skills could be learned on-the-job. 

17 May 1988 Courier News

In 1988 New Jersey Shale Brick was purchased by the sizeable Pennsylvania-based brick manufacturer Glen-Gery Corp. By that time the plant was employing about 55 people, none of which were expected to be laid off as Glen-Gery planned to continue operations. They did just that for a little over twenty years before closing the plant early in the last decade.

5 September 1989 Courier News

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