Citations and Annotations from Waterpower
Hunter, Louis C. (1979). A history
of industrial power in the United States, 1780-1930. Volume one: Waterpower
in the century of the steam engine. Published for the Eleutherian Mills-Hagley
Foundation by the University Press of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA. X.
Hunter, Louis C. (1985). A history
of industrial power in the United States, 1780-1930. Volume two: Steam
power. Published for the Eleutherian Mills-Hagley Foundation by the
University Press of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA.
- Click here to return to the Industrial
Revolution bibliography or to see annotations for Volume two or three.
- "The industrial power with which this study is concerned is stationary power as employed in industrial production in mills, mines, and factories.
Stationary power is to be distinguished from power in its mobile applications... whose principal use has been in transportation, as on railways
and in steam navigation during the nineteenth century and in automobiles
and aircraft in the twentieth century." (pg. xix).
- "This History of Industrial Power in the United States, 1780-1930,
is divided into three parts to appear in successive volumes. The
first will deal with waterpower in its varied aspects. ...Consideration
will be given in this first volume to the development in Great Britain
and the United States of the mechanical methods of power transmission and
distribution characteristic of the first [italics added] Industrial
Revolution." (pg. xxiii).
- "Volume two will cover in similar
fashion the introduction and development of steam power in this country
during the same period, or from the general adoption of the Boulton and
Watt engine at the threshold of the new century to the introduction of
the steam turbine as the nineteenth century was drawing to a close." (pg.
- "The third and final volume will
cover developments between 1850 and 1930 and will be directed ...to ...'the
[electric power] transmission revolution.'" (pg. xxiii).
- "For two and a half centuries the country water mill was the chief instrument
for generation and use of mechanical power in colonial and independent
America. ...The reliance of most American communities upon water mills
for certain basic tasks continued well into the late nineteenth century,
but from the 1860s their position was progressively undercut by the extension
of the market economy and the replacement of local by factory-made products"
- "Throughout rural America... country mills, driven in most instances by
water, nearly ever[y]where followed closely on the heels of settlement
and persisted long after the days of pioneering had passed. They
rank with the plow, ax, and oxen as basic equipment of a pioneering people;
they played an essential role in the subsistence phase of agricultural
development; and they contributed to the transition to a market economy.
Gristmills and sawmills were among the first community facilities obtained
frontier areas, in most regions taking precedence over schools, churches,
and stores and coming well in advance of wagon roads." (pg. 3).
- "From the blast furnaces and foundries came the hollowware -- pots, kettles,
pans -- and other cast-iron ware for household or farm use and the mill
irons and sundry equipment used by the mills themselves. The forges
supplied wrought iron of different shapes and dimensions, especially the
merchant bar, which, in the hands of the country or village blacksmith
or occasionally the farmer himself, was shaped into the wide variety of
hardware, edge tools, and nails so important in an agricultural economy."
- "Much less common than gristmills and sawmills, but for home manufactures
hardly less useful, were the fulling mills and carding and clothdressing
establishments. Fulling was the traditional finishing process in
making woolen cloth. In a prolonged operation combining pounding
with washing, fulling freed the rough-woven cloth from the natural grease
in the fibers and the oil used in carding and spinning wool. The
pounding action of heavy wooden stocks or beaters in soapy water had the
even more important effect of compacting the cloth, increasing its strength
and durability, a process accompanied by a reduction in dimensions." (pg.
21 - 22).
- "Falling water was the chief source of stationary power at all levels,
in most branches of industry, and throughout the greater part of the United
States before the 1860s. ...The traditional view of the revolutionary role
of steam power, while not without a certain validity, has been accepted
by historians almost without challenge and with little qualification until
recent years. ...Melvin Kranzberg and
Carroll W. Purcell, Jr., opens a chapter on 'The prerequisites of Industrialization'
(which makes no reference to waterwheels) with this statement: 'When we
think of the Industrial Revolution we usually think of the steam engine,
the railway locomotive and the factory system'" (pg. 159).
- "The first reaction wheel to secure more than local acceptance was that
of Calvin Wing of Gardiner, Maine. It was patented in 1830 and was
described explicitly in the patent as an improvement on Barker's mill,
designed to obtain greater economy and efficiency in operation compared
with ordinary wheels." (pg. 303).
- "The turbine was the eventual outcome of the efforts of many generations
of men working upon a common problem related to a widespread need.
Two fairly distinct lines of influence and development can be traced in
the history of the turbine in the United States, one springing from native
sources, the other from Europe largely, principally France. On the
native side, apart from the tub wheel, the turbine was advanced chiefly
by improvements in the reaction wheel, devised by such men as James Rumsey,
Calvin Wing, Zebulon Parker, and Samuel B. Howd." (pg. 307).
- "The European influences centered in the experimental and inventive activities
carried on principally in France during the 1820s and 1830s by Jean Victor
Poncelet, Claude Burdin, Arthur Morin, and Benoît Fourneyron, and
was developed further in practical application, by Feu Jonval. Turbines
of French design were introduced in this country in the 1840s by Ellwood
Morris and Emile Geyelin in the Middle Atlantic states and by George Kilburn,
Uriah A. Boyden, and James B. Francis in New England, with the last two
making significant innovations of their own." (pg. 307).
- "The native development was almost wholly pragmatic and empirical, largely
ignorant of and indifferent to theoretical considerations. The foreign
one was scientific in its environment, stimulation, and methodology, and
practical in its objectives." (pg. 307).
- "Ironworks ranged widely in size and power needs. From the opening
decades of the nineteenth century the trend in the scale of operations
and power needs was progressively upward. The small, rural charcoal
blast furnace of the early 1800s with its daily output of one or two tons
of pig iron used no more waterpower -- say, 2 to 4 horsepower -- than the
common gristmill. By 1850 coke and anthracite blast furnaces averaged
50 horsepower, a figure that had increased to 200 horsepower by 1880.
Then came the extraordinary upsurge in coke blast furnace size and capacity
that in 1900 had led to blowing engines of 2,000 horsepower and more for
a single stack." (pg. 438).
- "Similar though less spectacular developments took place in the forging
of iron by trip-hammers and roll trains. At one extreme were the
small water-powered rural bloomeries and forges, requiring typically several
horsepower to supply the blast and drive the forge hammer. At the
other were the heavy forge shops and rolling mills. Pittsburgh's
first rolling mill, 1812, had a 70-horsepower engine; one erected in 1818
had two engines of 120 horsepower each. Increase in engine size here
and elsewhere proceeded slowly until merchant bar gave way as the chief
product to rails, structural shapes, and the like in the 1850s and 1860s.
By 1870 rolling-mill engines had reached 600 horsepower." (pg. 438).
- Click here to return to the Industrial
Revolution bibliography or to see annotations for Volume one or three.
- "The removal of water from mines was not only the first industrial application
of steam power, in the United States as in Britain, but it was an application
that continued to play a vital role in industrialization, although increasingly
overshadowed by a widening circle of other industrial uses." (pg. 2).
- "The single-acting piston -- power on the downstroke only -- was joined
by a piston rod and chain linkage to one end of a great oscillating beam
from whose outer end the pump rod extended downward to the pump at the
bottom of the mine shaft or well." (pg. 5).
- "With important exceptions, notably Oliver Evans with his high-pressure
engine, attention was directed almost entirely to the steam navigation
of inland waterways, especially upon the river systems of the Atlantic
seaboard and the trans-Appalachian West." (pg. 8).
- "In making his important contribution to steam navigation, Robert Fulton
added little to the existing technology and understanding of the steam
engine. He successfully harnessed the low-pressure condensing engine
built to his specifications by Boulton and Watt to the propulsion of a
vessel... The high-pressure noncondensing steam engine, so early
and so widely adopted in the United States was virtually the creation of
one man, Oliver Evans (1755 - 1819). A contemporary of Fulton (1755
- 1825)" (pg. 33-34).
- "Depressed by the rejection in Washington of his petition for the renewal
of his milling patents and lacking the funds to complete the steam engine
guide to which he had given much work, the frustrated Evans published in
Philadelphia in 1805 his Abortion of
the Young Steam Engineer's Guide, an appropriate companion piece
to his Young Mill-wright and Miller's
Guide." (pg. 39).
- "Evans made the Abortion the vehicle of an appeal to potential customers,
naming the industrial operations to which his engine could be applied to
great advantage, even pointing out the manner of connecting the engine
to the machine or machinery driven. Beginning with the innumerable
grist- and sawmills, he went on to list the basic industries of the day:
working blast furnaces, forges, and rolling mills; grinding rags; crushing
sugar cane; pumping water; hoisting coal; and so on." (pg. 39).
- "Not until the Civil War decade did steam power obtain parity and then
superiority to waterpower in the manufacturing industries. The subordinate
role of steam power was only in part owing to such obvious limitations
as high first cost, problems of maintenance and repair, and high costs
of fuel and attendance. Other and often more important considerations
were the relation of power expense to total production costs, opportunities,
and economies... In short, the role of motive power is best understood
with reference to the larger processes of production, not only within the
framework of the economy but especially in relation to the course of industrialization."
- Chapter 3, "Development of the American High-pressure Mill Engine, 1800
- 1850" contains an excellent bibliography of 19th century publications
on the history of the steam engine, see pg. 118 - 122.
- "Firearms apart, the steam engine was the first practical heat engine.
With supporting furnace and boiler, its function was both to generate heat
energy from fuel in the form of steam under pressure and to convert that
energy into forceful motion by which machinery could be driven and work
performed." (pg. 119).
- "For convenience in understanding, the course of mill-engine development
in the United States may be arranged in several broad and overlapping periods,
"Historically there have been three principal ways of shaping iron and
other metals: (1) heat to a fluid and pour into a hollow sand mold created
by using a wooden pattern; (2) soften in a forge fire by bringing to a
red-to-white heat and shape with hammers and a whole kit of forging tools,
with or without the aid of power; and (3) attack the metal cold with cutting
tools such as files, chisels, and cutting bits that take off chips, shavings,
or small fragments of metal. ...for many years the hand file and chipping
chisel with hammer were much the most important." (pg. 183).
"From about 1850 new metalworking equipment, principally power-driven automatic
precision machine tools, increasingly dominated the machinery-building
or engineering industries." (pg. 186).
"Two articles from the Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th ed., 'Founding'
and 'Iron and Steel,' give brief historical accounts of these subjects.
Quoting from 'Founding': 'To enable the founder to prepare a mould for
the casting, he must receive a pattern similar to the casting required.'
...'Cast iron,' states 'Iron and Steel,' 'is, generically, iron
containing so much carbon ... that it is not usefully malleable at any
temperature.' To be malleable, iron must be capable of being shaped, heated
or cold, by hammering or bending, etc., without breaking." (footnote, pg.
"From a reported 88 blast furnaces and 32 foundries in 1810, the number
of foundries identified by the census in 1840 rose to 804." (pg. 188).
"The blacksmithy, blacksmith shop, trip-hammer, or forge shop was in its
way much more versatile and far more widely distributed than the foundry."
"The smith's basic raw material was wrought iron in the form of bars, rods,
sheets, and plates of varying dimensions, obtained from forges and rolling
mills. The refining and physical manipulation of iron ore in the
bloomery forge and of pig iron in the puddling furnace of the rolling mill
eliminated certain impurities detrimental to fabrication." (pg. 194).
"The development of... 'drop-forging' provided a low cost method of duplicating
small wrought-iron parts with a degree of precision that may be likened
to that obtained with small casting. ...small, irregular parts [are] obtained
at a single blow by forging the hot iron rod or bar between dies." (footnote,
The "...slide-rest lathe, slotting machine, gear cutters, vertical spindle
drilling machines, milling machines, ...By 1850 the full range of these
precision-built and precision-working self-acting power tools was available
in essentially their modern form to those shops large enough to afford
them." (pg. 206).
"Remarking upon the essential role of files, the Scientific American in 1858 referred to the vast quantities required in almost every industry
'in the fabrication of the most delicate watchwork, mathematical instruments,
steam engines, printing presses, houses, and ships.' There is hardly
a branch of industry, 'ran a description published in 1872, 'in which the
file does not directly or indirectly enter -- since in most operations
of smoothing or polishing the file is used.'" (pg. 208).
"The first milling machines made for sale rather than for private use were
reportedly made in 1848 for the Robbins and Lawrence Company of Windsor,
Vt." (footnote, pg. 211).
"The 1830s and 1840s were the years of transition between what Victor S.
Clark has called the preindustrial stage, with mill and furnace enterprises
serving local markets, and the early industrial stage, when production
was carried on increasingly for the wider regional and, eventually, national
markets." (pg. 223-224).
The following table is reprinted from pg. 230.
- The transfer from England to America, 1750 - 1815, with minor modifications,
of steam power in the forms given the steam engine by Newcomen and Watt,
with application chiefly to pumping in mine drainage and urban water supply
and, in the later years, in rapidly increasing numbers, to steam navigation.
- The adaptation, 1800 - 1825, of the stationary engine to the industrial
conditions and needs of this country, chiefly through the ingenuity and
enterprise of Oliver Evans, who developed, introduced, and publicized the
high-pressure noncondensing engine. Low-pressure condensing engines,
deriving a certain impetus from their successful use in steam navigation,
played a secondary and diminishing role.
- The improvement of the high-pressure engine, 1825 - 50, at the hands of
numerous and for the most part anonymous mechanics and small engine builders.
Mill engines were commonly one of a variety of simple machines and millwork
produced in local foundries or machine shops as demand in the market area
required. The mill engine in its eventual form used a horizontal
cylinder of small diameter and long stroke. The beam action employed
by both Newcomen and Watt because of its ready adaptation to pumping and
the simpler half beam, or 'grasshopper,' arrangement of Oliver Evans eventually
were replaced by the simpler and more convenient direct connection between
crosshead and crank by means of a connecting rod. The simple eccentric-operated
slide valve was well adapted to a limited use of expansive working with
a cutoff at half stroke or later.
- The development and wide introduction among the larger industrial establishments,
in the period 1850 - 80, of two engines that carry their inventors' names.
The first was the automatic variable cutoff engine, with superior efficiency,
fuel economy, and close-regulating capability. It was pioneered,
if only in part invented, by George H. Corliss and adopted in variant forms
by many other engine builders. Second was the high-speed engine,
peculiarly the achievement of Charles T. Porter, a gifted outsider, and
John F. Allen, a mechanic whose idea for an ingenious valve gear resulted
in the Porter-Allen engine.
- From 1870 to 1900, advances in the scale, efficiency, and economy of steam-power
plants to meet, at low unit costs, large power requirements of heavy industry,
mining, large urban water-supply systems, and, from the 1880s, electric
generating stations. Power development in this period was marked
by the growing adoption of multicylinder expansion engines and sectional
watertube boilers." (pg. 123-124).
Table 23. Steam engines operating in the United States, 1838,
for which are available data on name of builder, place, and date of building
"The use of steam power took a sharp upward surge in America in the 1850s.
Within thirty years of the Steam Engine Report of 1838, stationary steam
power moved from the fringes to the center of the industrial scene.
Within another thirty years, by 1900, steam power had reduced direct-drive
waterpower to a minor and steadily declining part in American manufacturing,
persisting chiefly in the small-scale, traditional mill industries.
Before 1860 steam power had been identified chiefly with transportation,
and it was through steam navigation and railways that it helped effect
the conversion of a pioneer subsistence economy to one in which regional
specialization and commercial interchange were the dynamic elements.
Beginning in the 1850s, however, steam power became a central factor in
the industrialization of the American economy in what was in effect a sequel
to the transportation revolution of the preceding decades." (pg. 251).
"It was in response to the needs of the small but growing segment of large-scale
industry that a significant innovation in stationary engines, the automatic
variable cutoff engine, made an appearance about mid-century. This
engine marked the first major advance in stationary steam engineering since
the general adoption of the high-pressure noncondensing engine and the
beginnings of expansive working some forty years earlier. ...Yet credit
for the practical development and commercial introduction of the type is
traditionally and properly assigned to George H. Corliss of Providence.
...He brought together a number of mechanical elements -- some old and
familiar, some novel but little used conceptions of others, some ingenious
contrivances of his own devising -- and combined them into a highly effective
working whole." (pg. 253-254).
"The 1890s marked a great divide in the history of industrial power, with
consequences as far-reaching as those attending the introduction of steam
power in the first Industrial Revolution a century earlier. On the
one side lay the old-style direct-drive prime movers, steam engines and
waterwheels, in their various forms, served by power-transmission equipment
of similar vintage: lines of shafting and countershafting, pulleys, and
belting... The new methods of power transmission and distribution were
to have as great an impact upon industrial production as the introduction
of steam power more than a half century earlier. These new methods
of power transmission eventually came to be based upon a major institutional
innovation: central stations, urban power plants of great generating capacity
serving through networks of transmission lines and local systems of distribution
ever-growing numbers of power consumers, industrial, commercial, and, in
time, domestic. Under the central station system, power was to be
generated, sold, and delivered to factory, mill, mine, and workshop like
any other material or service required." (pg. 433-434).
Hunter, Louis C. (1991). A history
of industrial power in the United States, 1780-1930. Volume three: The
transmission of power. The MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.
|Source: Treasury Department, Steam-Engines
- Click here to return to the Industrial
Revolution bibliography or to see annotations for Volume one or two.
- "...for electrical transmission at least, that the economy of large-scale
generation of power in a central station is more than enough to compensate
for the cost of energy transmission. Furthermore, the energy in electrical
form is convenient for many purposes in addition to industrial power, so
that the heavy fixed costs of generation and transmission can be shared
by many different uses of the energy. The demand for energy in this
remarkably versatile form rose steadily for the next century, apparently
without limit." (pg. xxiii).
- "The power carried in these electrical networks was still waterpower and
steam power. In this country it was -- and still is -- about one-third
waterpower and two-thirds steam power. (The fuel may change from
wood to coal to oil to uranium, but the working fluid usually remains steam.)
The waterpower has come mostly from very large hydroelectric plants, ten
or a hundred times the size of the typical water mill described in the
first volume, and almost all the steam power has come through the steam
turbine, successor to the classic steam engine of the second volume." (pg.
- "The steam turbine, when it came, was thermodynamically quite different
from the steam engine, reciprocating or rotary, in which the pressure of
a volume of steam forces a piston or wheel to move. In the turbine
it is mostly the kinetic energy of the steam that is converted into work.
The heat energy in the steam is used to give the steam itself a high velocity,
and it is the mass of steam, moving at a very high velocity, that drives
the blades of the rotor." (pg. 332).