Long before there were automobiles in the U.S., good roads were badly needed to get farm produce to market and to allow people to go visiting and shopping without battling mud. An American professor who had emigrated from Belgium — Edward de Smedt — invented an asphalt mix, which could be applied in sheets to make a smooth surface. His first trial occurred on this date in 1870 on William Street in Newark, New Jersey. Even though de Smedt’s technique worked well, by 1904, there were only 154 miles of paved highway in the entire country. Today, there are nearly 1.2 million miles of urban streets and freeways, and 3 million miles of highways and roads in rural America. These paved surfaces are maintained and extended by America’s 10,121 road and bridge construction firms. You can find more facts about America from the U.S. Census Bureau online at <www.census.gov>.