Portland cement is modern cement. It’s admittedly dull — unless being used on dilapidated ships by mobsters for shoes — but extremely useful with more mainstream uses.
Portland cement is used to make buildings, stadiums, stairs, sidewalks, foundations, and shares the unfortunate honor of being the enabler of brutalist architecture.
Portland cement vastly lowered the cost of high strength stone-like buildings. It enables much of the buildings we today take for granted. It was called Portland cement because the inventor tried to convince people it looks like a type of stone in England; it has nothing to do with the hipster paradise in the Northwest United States.
Joseph Aspdin, the son of a bricklayer, invented the process to make Portland Cement and obtained a patent for it on Oct. 21, 1824. Aspdin’s neighbor, William Beverley, bankrolled the initial plant. Aspdin expressed his appreciation by giving him the shiv at the first opportunity, pushing him out of the business, a common pattern we see to this day.
Joseph’s process never entirely worked. His son, William, is described by historians as an ungrateful dishonest spendthrift, possibly thanks to his dad’s jealousy. An obnoxious dolt or not, William apparently perfected the cement-making method.
Joseph, the father, tried to push out William, the son (note: between shoving out his first inventor and the man who perfected his method, his own son, we’re seeing a pattern here). Instead, William moved north and built his own cement factory.
Rather than try to explain the process, we’ll defer to the website www.understanding-cement.com because, let’s face it, anybody who’d build a whole website on the subject knows a lot more than us. They explain: Portland cement is “produced by firing finely-ground clay and limestone until the limestone was calcined.” In other words, you cook clay and limestone in a giant oven.