Our History
OPERATIVE PLASTERERS' AND CEMENT MASONS'
INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION

Plastering is one of the earliest of crafts. Plasterwork was utilized in building and construction more than 4,000 years ago. Egyptian pharaohs plastered surfaces in their palaces and within their ancient pyramids, which may still be seen to this day.

Ironically, the principal tools used by the ancient plasterer are practically identical to those used by the modern-day plasterer. The Egyptians also used plaster material made from calcined gypsum, much like the plaster of Paris used today. They also introduced plastering on lath to strengthen their work. The Egyptians used hair to give added strength.

Plaster was also used by the ancient Greeks 500 years before Christ's birth. The word "plaster" came from the Greek language, meaning "to daub on."

The use of plasters provided builders with a durable, long-lasting material to create smooth surfaces, as well as the ability to decorate wall surfaces. Later, lime and sand were mixed together to create a mortar to cover reed lathing for walls and ceilings. The lime also provided an outstanding means of antiseptic for ancient peoples.

It was learned long ago that plaster offers protection against fire. The 13th-century King in London also recognized the value of plaster and ordered all buildings to have plastered walls as an added means of fire protection. Those houses that didn't meet his specifications of plastered walls were ordered to be destroyed.

During the Renaissance period of the 14th through 16th centuries, Italian art and architectural styles began developing and spread throughout other countries. Plaster work began to fulfill the needs of architects and builders. The Baroque style of gaudily and ornate-carved figures covered ceilings and walls. Then the Rococo style of great ornamentation followed and peaked in France in the 18th century. Because this style was overpowering, it soon became subdued. Then came the light repeated ornament patterns. English plasterers perfected this style during the 18th and 19th centuries. During this time of developing plasterwork, plasterers used sand and lime as mortar to finish walls and ceilings.

Early in the 20th century, plaster of Paris, a derivative of gypsum, gradually replaced lime as the binding agent for sand in mortar. The plaster of Paris mortar had a shorter set rate (drying time). This allowed plasterers the ability to build up layers as the drying time required hours—not days or weeks as did the lime and sand mortar.

During the first half of the 20th century, new plastering materials were developed which increased the demand for plasterers. These materials also enabled the plasterer to increase the numbers of materials he worked with.

The plastering trade and tradesmen evolved to provide all phases of work including finishing walls and ceilings, floors, then finishing concrete road pavement, sidewalks and such. As the work increased, a natural subdivision in the trade occurred. Lathers did nothing but apply wood lath, other plasterers became involved with laying concrete. These tradesmen became known as cement masons. Therefore, initial plasterers separated into three grouped specialties, plasterers, lathers, and cement masons.

Four divisions in the plastering trade evolved. These divisions are plasterer, architectural sculptor, modeler, and caster.

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