The World Before Sand

At the dawn of the twentieth century, almost all of the world’s large structures—apartment blocks, office buildings, churches, palaces, and fortresses—were made with stone, brick, clay, or wood. The tallest buildings on Earth stood fewer than ten stories high. Roads were mostly paved with broken stone or, more likely, not paved at all. Glass in the form of windows or tableware was a relatively rare and expensive luxury. The mass manufacture and deployment of concrete and glass changed all that, reshaping how and where people lived in the industrialized world.

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