A Brief History of Asphalt

January 21, 2020

How often do you give any thought to the ground beneath your feet? Unless there’s a problem with potholes, tripping hazards or crumbling pavement, you probably don’t give it much attention. However, asphalt has been around for millennia—and since it covers about 95 percent of the paved roads in the United States, it’s worth learning a little more about why this versatile pavement material is so popular. If by the end, you’re looking for an asphalt contractor in Montgomery County, MD, be sure to call Maryland Asphalt LLC.

Origins of asphalt

Asphalt has been in use since at least 615 BCE: paved roads were used in Babylon, ancient Greece and ancient Rome. Naturally-occurring asphalt is present in asphalt lakes as well as “rock asphalt,” which is a mixture of asphalt, limestone and sand. Its popularity continued throughout the centuries for a multitude of purposes, including resealing ships. As explorers reached the Americas, they found more naturally-occurring asphalt deposits. However, it was not until the 1700s before asphalt was used to pave roads.

Asphalt roads in America

If you’ve ever been to a well-preserved historic American town, you’re probably used to seeing cobblestones, wooden sidewalks or other types of pavement. That’s because asphalt wasn’t used to pave roads in America until the 1870s. The first asphalt roads were laid in Newark, NJ and Washington, DC, and their popularity quickly spread. Builders were delighted to find that the asphalt deposits in America were of similar quality as to what was used in Europe, and its popularity spread. By 1896, New York City paved its roads in asphalt.

However, the patent process and New York’s required warranties bankrupted builders and contractors, making it more costly and less common to pave with asphalt.

Improvements to the process

The 20th century brought new developments to the asphalt creation and pavement process. Since the late 19th century, refined asphalt had been slowly gaining in popularity, and by 1907 it became more popular than natural asphalt.

Asphalt experienced a boom with the invention of the automobile—and that popularity forced inventors and asphalt pavers to come up with innovative techniques for laying and testing asphalt. From mixers to dryers to laying tools, improvements made it faster and easier to mix and lay pavement. By 1937, asphalt was the most popular material for paving roads in the United States.

In addition to finding new methods of production and installation, the industry also began recycling asphalt. Today, asphalt is the most commonly recycled material in the United States, at about 95 million tons per year—with no signs of slowing down.

Asphalt contractor in Montgomery County, MD

Whether you’re a commercial or residential client, Maryland Asphalt LLC can help you achieve the function and look you’re going for. From parking lots and sport courts to driveways and sidewalks, we can handle projects of any size and scope. We also offer sealcoating services to keep your existing asphalt looking fresh. Call us today to find out how we can help.

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