The History of Concrete

Some form of concrete has been used by man for the past 5,000 years. The Egyptians used lime mortar in building the pyramids. The Romans used hydraulic cement in building the Pantheon and the Colosseum as well as in aqueducts and the Appian Way.

The art of making cement vanished with the Roman Empire, and it was not until 1836 that hydraulic- cement was re-discoverod by John Smeaton, an Englishman. Smeaton found that, by mixing powdered limestone with powdered clay, fusing the mixture and then re-pulverising it, he obtained a powder which, mixed with water, would set into a strong bonding material within a few hours. With this material, Smeaton built the Eddystone Lighthouse off the Cornish coast.

The next step was taken by another Englishman. In 1796, a patent was issued to James Parker for a natural cement which he made by burning impure limestone. Natural cement was used in the construction of the Erie Canal in the United States.

Then, in 1824, an English brick-mason, Joseph Aspen, received a patent for a commenting material that he produced by burning limestone and clay together. He named his product “portland cement” because its color resembled that of a limestone quarried on the Isle of Portland, a peninsula on the English coast. The first portland cement plants in the United States were established in Pennsylvania in 1875, and the first mile of concrete road was laid in Michigan in 1909. Portland cement made possible the production of high quality concretes at relatively low cost, and led to the wide use of concrete as a building material.

Concrete reinforced with iron bars was developed in France. Joseph Lambot built a small reinforced concrete boat in 1849 and exhibited it at the Paris Exposition in 1855. Lambot also suggested the use of reinforcement in concrete beam. A patent for a reinforced concrete floor was issued to W. D. Wilkinson of England in 1854.

The first practical use of reinforced concrete was credited to Joseph Monier who, in July 1868, acquired his first French patent for iron—reinforced concrete tubs for use in his Paris nursery. Moonier later obtained patents for reinforced concrete tanks, bridges and stairvmys, but interestingly enough, never saw or thought of a concrete roof tile.

Pioneering work with reinforced concrete in the United States was done by Thaddeus Hyatt, who experimented with reinforced concrete drums in the 1850‘s. Ernest L Ransome used some form of reinforced concrete as early as 1870, and used wire rope and hoop iron in many structures.

The first building built wholly of reinforced concrete in the United States was the William E. Ward house (1876) in Port Chester, New York. The first reinforced skyscraper was the Ingalls Office Building (1902) in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Pre-stressing was first used on an experimental basis by P. H. Jackson of San Francisco about 1886. The first practical development of pre-stressed concrete is credited to Eugene Fryssinet of France, who was the first to use high strength steel wire for pre—stressing wires and used a double-acting jack to apply tension to the wires. Between 1949 and 1953, 350 pre-stressed bridges were built in Europe. The first major pre-stressed concrete bridge in the United States was the Walnut Lane Bridge in Philadelphia, built in 1950.

The development of portland cement. concrete, reinforced and pre-stressed concrete more greatly expanded and accelerated man’s construction capabilities than the entire evolution of building methods and materials over the preceding centuries. Now it was possible to build mammoth dams and bridges, immense tunnels, superhighvmys and skyscrapers. One of the most recent uses of concrete is the fabrication lo thin shells in cylindrical, hyperbolic, elliptical and parabolic curves which make possible buildings of unusual architectural beauty and grace. Thin walled concrete pipe, built with pre-stessed reinforcement, is used to convey water or sewage as it can withstand high pressures without leaking. The use of pre-cast concrete wall panels and building blocks has grown rapidly because they speed construction and add to the beauty of completed structures. On a world-wide basis, the yearly production of concrete now amounts to approximately one ton per capital.

One new and improved product to evolve from the use of portland cement is concrete roofing tile. Which Danco Roofing employs!