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Asphalt Paves the Way

By American Oil & Gas Historical Society -- June 18, 2020

A major theme of political economy is the undesigned order of the market under private ownership, voluntary exchange, and the rule of law. By permission from the American Oil & Gas Historical Society, MasterResource will publish articles documenting the progress of the market-driven U.S. energy industry. (This article was originally published by AOGS in 2014.)

American mobility would soon depend on a petroleum product from the bottom of the distillation process.


[Pennsylvania Avenue was first paved bitumen imported from Trinidad bitumen in 1876. Thirty-one years later, a better asphalt derived from petroleum distillation was used to repave the famed pathway to the Capitol, above.]

President Ulysses S. Grant directed that Pennsylvania Avenue be paved with Trinidad asphalt. By 1876, the president’s paving project covered about 54,000 square yards, according to A Century of Progress: The History of Hot Mix Asphalt, published in 1992 by National Asphalt Pavement Association.…