Archive for Thursday, February 19, 2009

Some concrete history

February 19, 2009

Whenever I can’t think of a subject to write about I go outside and jump on by bicycle and ride up and down my driveway and patio. One complete circle is about 500 feet. Usually an idea comes to me, and today I was thinking about my concrete drive and what it was when we first moved here almost 59 years ago. My thoughts ran back to the first concrete I helped my dad make when I was 10 or 12 years old. Dad made a trough about three feet wide and six feet long with 2-by-4 sides. He was very thorough in everything he did, and the dry ingredients had to be turned so many times for him to consider it good enough to add the water. Then that had to be turned a certain number of times for him to consider it good concrete. Most concrete back then was mixed that way before concrete mixers that were driven by a motor.

Now most concrete is mixed in large drums on a truck that turn and mix 8 to 12 cubic yards and is being mixed while it is driven down the road. What a fantastic invention. I marvel at those fancy machines and while I was working in the sign business, I got to letter many of the Geiger cement trucks in Leavenworth.

Concrete is thousands of years old. They used a combination of gypsum mortars and mortars of lime in the pyramids. The Chinese used a cementitious material when building the Great Wall, and in 800 B.C., the Greeks used lime mortars that were much harder than later Roman mortars. Down through the years many different ingredients were used to make a better mixture, including animal fat, milk and even blood. Clay was also used.

In 1796 James Parker patented natural hydraulic cement by adding calcining nodules of the impure limestone containing clay. This was called Parker’s Cement or Roman Cement. In 1824 Joseph Aspdin of England invented good cement by burning finely ground chalk with finely divided clay in a lime kiln until carbon dioxide was driven off. This was named for the town of Portland, England, thus we have Portland Cement that is still used today. One of the first uses for this cement was the Thames Tunnel in 1828.

The first concrete street in the United States was in Bellefontaine, Ohio, in 1891, and it still exists today.

I can’t imagine what it we would do without concrete. I would not want to go back to the muddy shale driveway we had originally.


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