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Bursting Boilers and the Federal Power Redux The Evolution of Safety on the Western Rivers


  • Richard N. Langlois

    (University of Connecticut)

  • David J. Denault
  • Samson M. Kimenyi

    (University of Connecticut)


Using newly constructed data series on explosions, deaths, and steamboat traffic, we examine econometrically the causes of increased safety in steamboat boilers in the nineteenth century. Although the law of 1852 (but not that of 1838) did have a dramatic initial effect in reducing explosions, that reduction came against the background not of a system out of control but of a system that from the beginning was steadily increasing boiler safety per person- mile. The role of the federal government in conducting and disseminating basic research on boiler technology may have been more significant for increased safety than its explicit regulatory efforts.

Suggested Citation

  • Richard N. Langlois & David J. Denault & Samson M. Kimenyi, 1994. "Bursting Boilers and the Federal Power Redux The Evolution of Safety on the Western Rivers," Working papers 1994-01, University of Connecticut, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:uct:uconnp:1994-01

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    Blog mentions

    As found by, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Intellectual Steam
      by Dick Langlois in Organizations and Markets on 2010-05-19 23:38:49


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    Cited by:

    1. George Selgin & John L. Turner, 2011. "Strong Steam, Weak Patents, or the Myth of Watt's Innovation-Blocking Monopoly, Exploded," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 54(4), pages 841-861.

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