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Did Steam Engines Fuel Urban Growth in the Late Nineteenth Century? Less Sanguine Results

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Author Info

  • Burton A. Abrams

    ()
    (Department of Economics, University of Delaware)

  • Jing Li

    ()
    (Department of Economics, University of Delaware)

  • James G. Mulligan

    ()
    (Department of Economics, University of Delaware)

Abstract

There exists general agreement that the steam engine’s rise in importance occurred at the same time as large increases in firm size and growing urbanization, but no consensus concerning the degree to which the steam engine served as an exogenous force fueling urban growth. We reexamine the hypothesis that a leading brand of steam engine made by the Corliss Company fueled urbanization in the late nineteenth century. Using previously untapped county-level data on steam power in manufacturing, we show that there is little convincing evidence that either the Corliss engine or even steam power in general was the driving force behind urbanization.

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File URL: http://graduate.lerner.udel.edu/sites/default/files/ECON/PDFs/RePEc/dlw/WorkingPapers/2007/UDWP2007-12.pdf
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by University of Delaware, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 07-12.

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Length: 15 pages
Date of creation: Aug 2007
Date of revision:
Publication status: Published in Journal of Economic History, December, 2008.
Handle: RePEc:dlw:wpaper:07-12.

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Postal: Purnell Hall, Newark, Delaware 19716
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Fax: (302) 831-6968
Web page: http://www.lerner.udel.edu/departments/economics/department-economics/
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Keywords: urbanization; technology;

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  1. Barro, R.J. & Sala-I-Martin, X., 1991. "Convergence Across States and Regions," Papers 629, Yale - Economic Growth Center.
  2. Rosenberg, Nathan & Trajtenberg, Manuel, 2004. "A General-Purpose Technology at Work: The Corliss Steam Engine in the Late-Nineteenth-Century United States," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 64(01), pages 61-99, March.
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