How did asphalt become one of the most common paving materials in the world?

Given its prevalence today, it may be hard to imagine a time when blacktop wasn’t used for just about every roadway, driveway, and parking lot.

Over the course of hundreds of years, however, asphalt evolved and rose to become the popular paving material that we now know it to be.

Keep reading to learn a little more about the history of asphalt paving!

625 B.C.: The First Known Use of Asphalt Paving

Although asphalt paving might seem like a fairly modern invention, asphalt has been used in various forms for millennia. In fact, the ancient Mesopotamians used different kinds of asphalt for waterproofing purposes.

The first use of actual asphalt paving can be traced back to roadways in 625 B.C. Babylon.

1800s: A Form of Asphalt Paving Is Used in the UK

Despite asphalt existing for hundreds of years prior, it wasn’t until the 19 century when a method similar to what would become traditional blacktop started being used for roadway paving.

Thomas Telford and his contemporary, John Loudon McAdam, are credited with using a mixture of crushed stone for roadways throughout Scotland—a method that would later become known as tar-and-chip, chip seal, or macadam.

1870: Asphalt Paving Finally Arrives in the U.S.

Decades after different forms of asphalt paving had already been used in other countries, blacktop finally arrived in the United States.

The Belgian-American chemist Edmund J. De Smedt is credited with having paved the first modern asphalt roadway in Newark, New Jersey in 1870.

1900s: The Asphalt Paving Industry Explodes

It should come as no surprise that the rise of the asphalt paving industry coincided with the popularization of automobiles in the early 1900s.

The first asphalt manufacturing plant was established in 1901, and different types of paving machinery followed. As traffic increased, the demand for high-quality asphalt roads also increased. By the year 1937, roughly 80% of all roads in the U.S. were blacktop.

1950s: The Asphalt Paving Industry Explodes

In 1956, the asphalt paving industry took a monumental step forward when Congress committed $51 billion to building new roads through the Interstate Highways Act.

This not only accelerated the building of asphalt roads across the country but also revolutionized interstate travel.

Modern Day: Asphalt Is a Common, Safe, and Environmentally Friendly Paving Material

Today, it’s estimated that there are more than 2.6 million miles of asphalt-paved roads in the United States alone!

It’s also worth noting that asphalt mixtures have evolved significantly over time. As of 2002, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) no longer considers asphalt to be a hazardous pollutant. In fact, it is now the United States’ most recycled product with over 70 million tons recycled and reused every year.

Are you considering asphalt as a paving material for your parking lot, driveway, or roadway? Contact the team at Danny’s Asphalt Paving today. One of our experts would be happy to discuss your project and provide you with a free estimate for the work!