A little while back I was having breakfast with my friend Tim in High Falls, New York. As we left, right across the road I saw this sign:
DISCOVERY OF CEMENT
At Bruceville, Nathaniel
Bruce, burned in a blacksmith’s
forge, some native rock, and
discovered cement in 1818.
If that’s true, I wonder what the Romans used when building the Pantheon. Or the Colosseum. Or the Baths of Caracalla. And before that, the Egyptians and Chinese had both used it extensively.
Sure, we all forgot about cement until the modern era. But even then, it’s John Smeaton who is credited with the reintroduction of cement with his Eddystone Lighthouse off the south-west coast of England. That was built 1756-9.
Canvass White, returning from England patented a type of cement, Rosendale Cement, in 1818 while working up in Ulster County. It turns out that this area was great for cement production. As was Madison County (home of High Falls). Cement from this area was used in the Brooklyn Bridge and the base of the Statue of Liberty.
Although I’ve nosed around, I have no idea how Nathaniel Bruce fits into all this. I’m sure he had some sort of role in developing the local cement industry in the early 19th century. One thing’s for sure though: he certainly didn’t discover cement here in 1818.
Discovery of Cement Historical Marker
Address: In front of the Eagle’s Nest Saloon where the 213 and Bruceville Road meet, High Falls NY