James Watt redesigns the steam engine

You. . . speak of a new method ofraising water by steam which you suppose will come into general use. I know ofno new method of that kind and suppose (as you say that the account you havereceived of it is very imperfect) that some person has represented to you asnew a fire engine erected at Paris and which supplies the greater part of thetown with water. But this is nothing more than the fire engine you have seendescribed in the books of Hydraulics . . . the idea of which was first takenfrom Papin's digester.2

in our minds with the name of James Watt, Watt made the steam engine practical by ..

In addition to its fame as acenter of engine and machine building, Philadelphia by the 1850s had also madea reputation in the closely allied manufacture of iron ships. Fabricators ofsteam boilers, having the necessary equipment and experience in working sheetsof iron, pioneered in the building of iron ships in this country. One of thelargest firms in this business was Reaney, Neafie, & Company, which wasformed in 1844 by two mechanics, Thomas Reaney and Jacob G. Neafie. The latterhad been an apprentice of Thomas Halloway, a prominent stationary enginebuilder of the city. John Roach, perhaps the most famous iron shipbuilder ofpost­war Philadelphia, moved to that city after serving his apprenticeshipin New York under James P. Allaire.4 His exodus from New York wasnot surprising for while New York City continued to be the center oftraditional wooden ship construction, the building of iron ships along theDelaware River was earning it a sobriquet as the "American Clyde."


Morning Chronicle Newspaper Archives, Jul 1, 1844, p. 8

James Watt changed all that when he invented a steam engine that was faster and ..

In 1838 the relatively small numberof steam engines in New England, outside of the large metropolitan center ofBoston, was because of the great abundance of waterpower and the lack of anylocal source of fuel for steam furnaces. The abundance of waterpower in thecountryside is axiomatic to any economic study of New England. While figures donot exist for the earlier period, in 1870 water in New England supplied 99,073horsepower for cotton mills alone, and by 1905 that figure had increased to251,884.61 The increase in steam power during these same years waseven larger, from 46,967 in 1870 to 702,023 in 1905, but it is significant that-- through the development of marginal power sites, improvements in damengineering, and the use of more efficient turbines -- total horsepower from waterwas still increasing into the twentieth century. With such water resourcesavailable, the need for steam power was not felt as strongly or as soon here asin other parts of the country.


He helped businesses communicate over long distances

Just as the number and theuse of steam engines expanded enormously during the Jacksonian period, so didthe making of engines become widespread and systematized. At the end of the Warof 1812, engine-makers were few and were concentrated in the three centers ofNew York, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh. By the middle of the century, engineshops were found in nearly every sizable town in the country. A generalknowledge of steam was even more widely spread. At the turn of the century, thevenerable iron manufacturer and mill designer John Fritz reminisced that whenbe became an apprentice in a Parkesburg, Pennsylvania, blacksmith's shop in1838, he discovered that his new master had built his own steam engine. Fritzwrote that in those days a mechanic in like circumstances "would have tomake his own drawings and patterns, make his own forging, and fit the work allup, without tools, except makeshifts. Today, as many men work on an engine asthere are parts to it, and each man has a special machine, specially designedto do his work on."2 The significant point is not that a small‑townblacksmith had to improvise in building an engine in 1838, but that he couldeven build a workable engine.

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Part of this opposition to Evansand his claims was based upon a real reluctance to employ high-pressure steambecause of the great danger involved when raising steam in the crudely madeboilers of that time. Some of the resistance, however, was brought on by Evans'claim to have patented the very use of high pressure, regardless of whether inan engine of his design or not. When Thomas Copeland began to build engines inPittsburgh, "upon the principles of the celebrated WATT &BOLTON," in 1813, he maintained "that he cannot be prevented fromusing steam of any elastic force. It cannot be pretended," he concluded,"that this is a new discovery."10 Evans, however, thoughtdifferently. He made a clear distinction between his patented steam engines andwhat he considered his patented principles, but continued to warn against theunauthorized use of either.

Why was James Watt important during the Industrial Revolution

The second major developmentin American steam engines during the first half of the nineteenth century wasacceptance of the principle that, for greater efficiency, steam should be usedexpansively. Once again, Watt had already anticipated this development, havingused it as early as 1782, but it is not clear whether the first engines of hisdesign in America adopted this practice. Oliver Evans recommended that hisColumbian engines be driven by expansive steam, and in his handbook forengineers he included a table "showing the proper time to shut off thesteam" on each stroke.13Latrobe,always ready to belittle Evans' work, commented that "Evans shuts it off,to save his Engines from destruction, (as do all the high steam Engine makersin England) and uses the expansive power alone & separately."14