A general-purpose technology at work: The Corliss steam engine in the late-nineteenth-century United States

Nathan Rosenberg, Manuel Trajtenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The contribution to growth from the steam engine-Industrial Revolution icon and prime example of a "General Purpose Technology"-has remained unclear. This article examines the role that a particular design improvement in steam power, embodied in the Corliss engine, played in the growth of the U.S. economy in the late nineteenth century. Using detailed data on the location of Corliss engines and water-wheels and a two-stage estimation strategy, we show that the deployment of Corliss engines served as a catalyst for the industry's massive relocation into large urban centers, thus fueling agglomeration economies and further population growth.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)61-99
Number of pages39
JournalJournal of Economic History
Volume64
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2004

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