Asphalt is a naturally occurring building material found in both asphalt lakes and in rock asphalt (a mixture of sand, limestone, and asphalt).
According to the National Asphalt Pavement Association, the first recorded use of asphalt as a road building material was in Babylon around 615 BC, in the reign of King Nabopolassar. Its first appearance as a historical marvel in popular literature might be in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House on the Prairie” when she wrote about arriving in Topeka, Kansas:
“In the very midst of the city, the ground was covered by some dark stuff that silenced all the wheels and muffled the sound of hoofs. It was like tar, but Papa was sure it was not tar, and it was something like rubber, but it could not be rubber because rubber cost too much. We saw ladies all in silks and carrying ruffled parasols, walking with their escorts across the street. Their heels dented the street, and while we watched, these dents slowly filled up and smoothed themselves out. It was as if that stuff were alive. It was like magic.”
MORE: Vintage photos around New Jersey
New Jersey, first in so many things when it comes to things we sometimes take for granted, was also part of a first for asphalt. In 1870, Belgian chemist Edmund DeSmedt laid the first true asphalt pavement in the Unites States in front of the City Hall in Newark.
NAPA notes that today asphalt covers more than 94 percent of the paved roads in the United States.
Here’s a look at street scenes from throughout New Jersey, many on roads paved in asphalt. And here are links to other galleries you might enjoy.
More vintage photos of N.J. street scenes
More vintage photos of streets and roads in N.J.
More vintage photos of street scenes in N.J.
Greg Hatala may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GregHatala. Find Greg Hatala on Facebook.
Vintage photos of street scenes in N.J.