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A General-Purpose Technology at Work: The Corliss Steam Engine in the Late-Nineteenth-Century United States

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  • ROSENBERG, NATHAN
  • TRAJTENBERG, MANUEL

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 waterwheels 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.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Cambridge University Press in its journal The Journal of Economic History.

Volume (Year): 64 (2004)
Issue (Month): 01 (March)
Pages: 61-99

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Handle: RePEc:cup:jechis:v:64:y:2004:i:01:p:61-99_00

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Cited by:
  1. Desmet, Klaus & Rossi-Hansberg, Esteban, 2009. "Spatial growth and industry age," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 144(6), pages 2477-2502, November.
  2. Kim, Sukkoo, 2005. "Industrialization and urbanization: Did the steam engine contribute to the growth of cities in the United States?," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 42(4), pages 586-598, October.
  3. Atack, Jeremy & Bateman, Fred & Margo, Robert A., 2008. "Steam power, establishment size, and labor productivity growth in nineteenth century American manufacturing," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 45(2), pages 185-198, April.
  4. Leah Platt Boustan & Devin Bunten & Owen Hearey, 2013. "Urbanization in the United States, 1800-2000," NBER Working Papers 19041, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Uwe Cantner & Simone Vannuccini, 2012. "A New View of General Purpose Technologies," Jena Economic Research Papers 2012-054, Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena, Max-Planck-Institute of Economics.
  6. Edquist, Harald & Henrekson, Magnus, 2004. "Technological Breakthroughs and Productivity Growth," Working Paper Series in Economics and Finance 0562, Stockholm School of Economics, revised 04 Apr 2005.
  7. Broadberry, Stephen & Fremdling, Rainer & Solar, Peter M., 2008. "European Industry, 1700 - 1870," GGDC Research Memorandum GD-101, Groningen Growth and Development Centre, University of Groningen.
  8. R. Andergassen & F. Nardini & M. Ricottilli, 2013. "Innovation diffusion, technological convergence and economic growth," Working Papers wp912, Dipartimento Scienze Economiche, Universita' di Bologna.
  9. Maine, Elicia & Garnsey, Elizabeth, 2006. "Commercializing generic technology: The case of advanced materials ventures," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 35(3), pages 375-393, April.
  10. Kim, Sukkoo, 2004. "Industrialization and Urbanization: Did the Steam Engine Contribute to the Growth of Cities in the United States?," Institute of European Studies, Working Paper Series qt4hd75171, Institute of European Studies, UC Berkeley.
  11. Burton A. Abrams & Jing Li & James G. Mulligan, 2007. "Did Steam Engines Fuel Urban Growth in the Late Nineteenth Century? Less Sanguine Results," Working Papers 07-12, University of Delaware, Department of Economics.
  12. Jalava, Jukka & Pohjola, Matti, 2008. "The roles of electricity and ICT in economic growth: Case Finland," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 45(3), pages 270-287, July.

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