The sidewalks of Oakland were not paved with concrete until the late 1800s. Before that, pedestrians were shielded from the dust and mud of the roadside with gravel paths or timber boardwalks, at best. It was a point of pride in Oakland, regularly mentioned in promotional literature, when the sidewalks began to be widely paved.
In some old sidewalk stamps you’ll see the abbreviation “A.S.P.”
That stands for “Artificial Stone Paving,” the early term of art for sidewalk concrete. Starting in 1887, the San Francisco directories had a classified section for artificial stone manufacturers. It included George F. and Harry N. Gray, the notorious Gray Brothers, at 316 Montgomery Street. The Grays operated three quarries in the city at 26th and Douglass streets (Diamond Heights), 29th and Castro streets (Corona Heights) and Green and Sansome streets (Telegraph Hill).
The same directory listed an Oakland firm, Oakland Artificial Stone Company, at 454 Ninth Street. If it ever produced sidewalks in this town, they do not survive.
You may wonder about the “Schillinger Patent.” It was a method, patented by John J. Schillinger in 1870, of making pavements that involved inserting tarpaper or similar materials between blocks of concrete. No less a person than Frederick Law Olmsted made the name famous among Supreme Court scholars when he designed some concrete paving for the U.S. Capitol grounds, specifying a technique of this type, and took the chance that Schillinger’s patent wouldn’t stand up in court. Schillinger sued the government in the federal Court of Claims, and in 1894 the Supreme Court ruled in Schillinger v. United States that because the offense was merely a tort the claims court had no jurisdiction.
Another San Francisco artificial stone manufacturer, George Goodman, was listed in the 1893 directory as a Schillinger Patent specialist.
One of his lovely marks survives here, at 1028 E. 17th Street.