Joseph Monier was a professional gardener (jardiner-paysagist) from the small village of potters, St Quentin-de-Potiers, just beside the town of Uzès. At the age of 17 (1840) he was hired by the Duke of Uzès to work in the gardens of the Duke's mansion in Paris. In 1846 he took a job the the famous Tuileries Gardes of Paris where he was responsible for the orangery. Here he began his work with concrete that would result in the invention of reinforced cement.
St Quentin-la-Potèrie is a village of potters, and in an agricultural area of fruit, vegetables and vineyards. [We live nearby and do our weekly market shopping here - ProvenceBeyond.] Young Joseph grew up here, one of 10 siblings, in a family of horticulturists working for the Duke of Uzès. Being the early 19th century, he spent his childhood in the fields, but taught himself to read and write. He became skilled enough at gardening that, at the age of 17, the Duke hired him to work at his mansion in Paris.
By the age of 23, in 1846, Joseph Monier was hired to work at the famous Tuileries Gardens in Paris, where he was responsible for the orangery. Orange trees were grown in large pots, as they had to be moved between the summertime open air and the wintertime greenhouses. Because of the fragility of large pots being moved about with heavy contents, Monier began experimenting with reinforcing the pots.
At that time, cement pots were used because they were lighter than clay, but they were just as ridged and prone to cracking. Monier began experimenting with using light-weight cement for the pots and reinforcing them with a grid of slender iron rods. The conventional wisdom of the 19th century held that the temperature-flexing iron would crack the ridged clay. It took Monier several years, but he proved that his methods worked.
Monier himself expanded his reinforced concrete pots from horticultural use to ferro-cement containers for collecting and storing garden water, as well as producing more decorative garden structures, such as pavilions, rockeries and grottos designed to look like natural rock. This style of "false wood" (faux bois) became very popular around the end of the 19th century. One feature of this style is a type of railing that's intended to look like wooden sticks and branches.
By 1873 Monier expanded his inventions, and his patents, to cover the construction of bridges, staircases and even railway sleepers with his reinforced cement.
In 1886 the German entineer Gustav Adolf Wayss saw the possibilities of Monier's reinforced concrete in building construction. After buying Monier's patent, Gustav Wayss established his own firm, Wayss & Freytag, and developed ferro-cement in the construction industry.
Some of the inventions of Joseph Monier resulted in patents for iron-reinforced cement for these products:
• 1867 - containers for horticulture.
• 1868 - pipes and fixed water tanks
• 1869 - panels for house walls
• 1873 - bridges and footbridges
• 1878 - construction beams