|Brian Trimble holds samples from his brick collection.
Not Just Another Brick in the Wall
by Rich Wilhelm
For Brian Trimble, no brick is “just another brick in the wall.”
Trimble, who recently received the Award of Merit for his work on ASTM Committee C12 on Mortars and Grouts for Unit Masonry, has been a brick collector since his professional career began.
After graduating from Penn State with a bachelor’s degree in architectural engineering in 1986, Trimble began working for Glen-Gery Brick in Washington, D.C., as a design center engineer. “The brick industry was so interesting that I’ve stayed with it ever since,” says Trimble.
Trimble's interest in brick collecting began at Glen-Gery and continued when he began working with the Brick Industry Association, where he served as the director of technical services
Trimble now works again for BIA as director of engineering services and architectural outreach, after working as a regional director at the International Masonry Institute for four years.
One of Trimble’s oldest bricks is also one of the most historically significant a brick from the Washington, D.C., home of William Marbury, whose name will always be a part of American judicial and political history due to its attachment to the famous Marbury v. Madison Supreme Court case of 1803. Trimble acquired the brick when Glen-Gery used it as a sample during a restoration on the house. “I’m a history buff at heart, so those kinds of tie-ins make it very interesting for me,” says Trimble.
It is the history behind each brick that fascinates Trimble and other collectors, many of whom belong to the International Brick Collectors Association. As Trimble noted in a feature article published about him in the Washington Post in the early 1990s, “That’s the whole idea to collect bricks made by various companies and find out about their history. There were 5,000 brick manufacturers in this country at the turn of the century down to about 80 today.”
While Trimble notes that bricks from ancient Mesopotamia can be found in some collections, his bricks were mostly produced during the 19th and 20th centuries. Bricks manufactured today are mostly blank, but in earlier days of brick- making, different manufacturers would print their company names in the bricks. Companies would also print special symbols or use a certain type of texture to identify their bricks. “Sometimes you’ll even find a dog’s paw print in a brick from some dog walking through the plant while the brick was still wet,” said Trimble.
Finding interesting bricks has never been a problem for Trimble. In addition to those that he has obtained through work-related projects, Trimble says his father-in-law has found several interesting bricks for him in the Pittsburgh area. When he can, Trimble also attends brick swaps, events to which collectors bring their extra bricks in order to trade with each other.
“Bricks have to be in good condition in order to read the name on them,” says Trimble. He says he looks for bricks he doesn’t have at brick swaps, as well as better examples of bricks he already owns.
Trimble lives in Seven Fields, Pa., with his wife Jane; their three girls, Victoria, Rachel and Ashley; and, of course, the 200 bricks that currently make up his collection. “I keep trying to get the girls interested in brick and they just look at me and say, ‘Oh, Dad…,’” says Trimble with a laugh. He also notes, though, that Ashley, who is seven, does enjoy going to brick swaps with him.
Trimble joined ASTM International in 1989, first as a member of Committee C15 on Manufactured Masonry Units. He currently chairs Subcommittee C12.03 on Specifications for Mortars, and co-chairs the 2006 Joint Masonry Symposium Committee. In addition to his C12 and C15 memberships, Trimble is a member of D01 on Paint and Related Coatings, Materials and Applications, E05 on Fire Standards, E06 on Performance of Buildings, and F13 on Pedestrian/Walkway Safety and Footwear.
According to Trimble, the knowledge that he has gained as an ASTM member through the years has been the greatest benefit of his ASTM experience so far. He has especially enjoyed his interactions with other ASTM members. “Once someone is involved with ASTM, if their company supports them, they really stick with it. It’s always interesting to me to meet people who have been involved in ASTM for a long time,” Trimble says. “Someday I’d like to be one of those guys who can start spouting things off and saying ‘I remember when…’ But I think I’ve already caught myself doing that.”