Skip to main content

Corliss Boiler Room Steam Engine Group by George H. Corliss
Are you an engineer inventor who can sell your own ideas? George Henry Corliss was. During the industrial age, Corliss (1817 - 1888) left school at age 14 and spent his early years working in New York as a clerk in a factory store. He attended an academy in Vermont, but opted to return to the only business he had known previously and opened his own store, working as a merchant. Bored with routine tasks, around age 23, he began to use his mechanical talents to invent and perfect machinery, and after a few years was awarded his first patent for a boot-stitching machine.

Corliss Boiler Room Steam Engine Group by George H. Corliss
Corliss moved from New York to Providence, RI, to seek funding to market and produce the stitching machine but his plans changed when he became interested in steam engines. As a result, he took a job at Fairbanks, Bancroft, and Company as a draftsman for their steam engine and boiler manufacturing firm. He rose in seniority, was able to work on his own projects at the company, and after a few years, left to pursue his own ideas as senior partner in Corliss, Nightingale, and Co. His new ideas improved steam engine design which benefited the entire world.

Corliss invented a valve that allowed steam to quickly pressurize a piston, moving it back and forth before the steam could condense. He also created governors that would control the steam and exhaust. These advances reduced waste heat and allowed the engine to operate with more uniform motion and lowered fuel costs. He designed, developed, and patented the Corliss Engine based on these improvements.

The Inventors Hall of Fame notes that the efficient shuttle valve in the Corliss Engines "paved the way for the widespread use of steam power in nineteenth-century America."
In 1856, Corliss opened the Corliss Steam Engine Company in Providence, RI. The steam engines he produced were used in many industrial applications, and were soon exported to Scotland for use in cotton mills. He opened a second production facility in England and oversaw both locations. Over time, the Corliss Engine was used worldwide, and once the patents expired, Corliss-type engine designs were adopted by many manufacturers.

Corliss's most well-known achievement was the Centennial Engine. Built for the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia, PA, this steam engine powered all of the machinery in Machinery Hall for the six month expo. It stood forty feet tall and weighed six-hundred-tons, making it the largest steam engine, and based on its maximum power rating, the most powerful at the time.

With much celebration, President Ulysses S. Grant and Emperor Don Pedro II of Brazil activated the Centennial Corliss engine using hand cranks to kick off the beginning of the Expo. After the expo closed, the engine was sold to the Pullman Company, where it operated for 30 more years. This low-speed engine was also significant as it marked the end of an era for steam engines, as high-speed steam engines became popular in the late 1880s.

Awards and medals from around the world indicate the extent to which Corliss impacted daily life during the industrial age. He personally held an honorary M.A. from Brown University, Boston's Academy of Arts and Sciences 1870 Rumford Medal, and the Institute of France's 1879 Montyon prize, which at the time, was the highest honor known for mechanical achievements. He was also made an "Officer of the Order of Leopold" in 1886 by the King of Belgium.

The Corliss engine also received numerous awards. It won the highest prize at the 1867 Paris Exhibition, beating more than a hundred of the world's most noted engine builders. At the 1873 Vienna Exposition, despite not even being on exhibition, the engine won the "Grand Diploma of Honor" - the top award - since Corliss's innovations were in almost every steam engine exhibited.
corliss boiler room steam engine group by George H. Corliss

Tags

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site