The Steam Engine Essay

This essay has a total of 2169 words and 8 pages.

The Steam Engine



“In the never-ending search for energy sources, the invention of the steam engine changed
the face of the earth.” (Siegel, Preface) The steam engine was the principal power
source during the British Industrial Revolution in the 18th century. The steam engine
opened a whole new world to everyone. The steam engine maximized production, efficiency,
reliability, minimized time, the amount of labor, and the usage of animals. The steam
engine in all revolutionized the Eastern Hemisphere, mainly European society. What does
revolutionize actually mean? It means that something such as the steam engine brought
about a radical change in something, and this something is the European Society. The
steam engine specifically brought about a radical change in work, transportation of goods,
and travel. The invention of the steam engine revolutionized European society by enabling
tasks to be done quicker, cheaper, and more dependably.

The steam engine use throughout the several professions revolutionized numerous aspects of
Western European Society. The first important use of the steam engine came in 1776. The
steam engine was used to show the Cornish miners how successful it could be in removing
the water from the mineshafts. This proved to be of great importance to the Cornish,
because one of their biggest problems was the flooding of the mining shafts. (The
Penetration of the Industry by Steam Power) The mine owners “worried…that the mines would
have to be shut down unless water could be pumped out of the shafts.” “The engine
successfully raised water from the bottom of deep mines.” (Siegel, 17) This saved the
shutting down of the mines, which were essential to further the economy. Not only did the
steam engine save the mines, it provided a method of mining that proved to be extremely
quicker than the traditional techniques. One of the biggest incomes for the British was
found in their textile industry. In the textile industry, the domestic system presented
many problems for merchants. They had difficulty regulating standards of workmanship and
maintaining schedules for completing work. Workers sometimes sold some of the yarn or
cloth in their own profit. As the demand in cloth increased, merchants often had to
compete with one another for the limited amount of workers available in manufacturing,
which increased merchants’ costs. As a result, merchants turned increasingly to
machinery, which was powered by the steam engine, for greater production and also turned
to factories for central control over their workers. (Johnson, 30) The steam engine
proved to be a reliable investment for merchants of the textile industries not only
because it wasn’t accident prone like humans and increased production by unimaginable
amounts, but it also moved the company into a factory, which helped to urbanize life to
the way we live it today. The steam engine was also used on the farm for several
purposes. It was used extensively for deep plowing, cultivating, mole draining and ground
clearing. “Great advances were also made in agriculture with the engines enabling greater
acreage to come under the plough and production increased by the use of machines to do
tasks formerly done by hand or by horses.” (Johnson, 39) These steam engines allowed
farmers to grow crops in abundance with minimal manual labor, which was an increase in
quantity and quality productions since a machine and not a human was doing the work.
Another great contribution of the steam engine was made in the iron/coal industries.
Since iron was starting to be produced so rapidly, more coal was needed to keep the steam
engines running. Since the coal mining industry had to keep up, steam power was used for
the mining of coal, which proved to be much faster than customary methods. Because the
steam engine was used to mine coal, and because “England had large deposits of coal to
fuel the new steam engines, it enabled people to use more machines and to build larger
factories.” (Industrial Revolution. Earth Explorer). More machines and factories using
the steam engine meant more production, more reliability, and cheaper prices. The steel
industry was also revolutionized through the use of the steam engine. Steel, smelted from
iron, was beaten, rolled or shaped on steam-powered machines. This steel became very
cheap, and was able to be used for the railroad tracks, and also used later on in
construction. (Gordon). Without the steal to be shaped so fast by the steam engines,
countries couldn’t have expanded its trade and travel the way it did. It is also said
that, “The water works and, in many cases, the canals could not exist without steam-power,
for their very existence depended upon the regular raising of large quantities of water to
high levels. Steam was the only power that made this possible.” (The Penetration of the
Industry by steam power) Without the steam engine, these factories, mills, agricultural
advances, and other industries could not have been revolutionized in the way they were.

The steam engine used in means of travel revolutionized the transportation of goods, as
well as the importing and exporting of them. “The steam-powered railroad changed
geography and history. When grain merchants transported their goods by horsepower, they
could go only so far before the horse consumed more than it could carry.” (Gordon) In
this aspect, the steam engine in railroads allowed people to import and export their goods
on a faster, more reliable, source. Another major effect of the steam engine on society
was the increased communication between different areas and countries relating to prices.
Before the steam engine in the railroad, prices of products varied dramatically from area
to area. Prices were lower in the area that produced a certain good and higher in an area
that had to import it. Now for the first time prices seemed to be relatively equal due to
the steam engine in the railroads. (Johnson, 35) The industry that the steam engine
developed depended on transport of raw materials. The steam engine in ships carried these
raw materials as well as finished products through waterways, for long distances. Goods
could be transported by water at a speed of 20 miles per hour, which is a lot faster and
economical than other methods. Because of the steam engine, countries could now import
and export with other countries at a faster pace than the wooden ships. “Road Locomotives
were fitted to carry out relatively long and fast journeys, hauling big loads on the hard
road surfaces. This was an alternative to transporting products through railways, because
there was a lack of the choice of routes.” (Wise, 56) The steam engine used in these
“Road Locomotives”, provided yet another means of transporting goods from one place to
another quickly and directly which was important in transporting. Road locomotives were
extremely efficient because if someone didn’t have much money, than they could transport
their goods via this transportation method. “The coming of the lighter steam wagons
revolutionized local delivery work, horses being brought within a reasonable day’s journey
of the market. Jobs, such as timber hauling, previously carried out by teams of horses
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