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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

AbstractThe 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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Suggested Citation

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

    • L63 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Manufacturing - - - Microelectronics; Computers; Communications Equipment
    • O32 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Management of Technological Innovation and R&D
    • O33 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Technological Change: Choices and Consequences; Diffusion Processes
    • Q55 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environmental Economics: Technological Innovation

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