| March/April 1980

  • Patent Excavator
    Courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution.
    Smithsonian Institution
  • Steam pumper engine

    Smithsonian Institution

  • Patent Excavator
  • Steam pumper engine

Man harnessed steam to do digging for him back in the days when that form of power was still being developed for many kinds of essential activities.

Excavation was the most demanding task faced by labor, in the field of engineering construction, and steam was applied to this before it went into any other phase of the building industry.

William S. Otis Patent Excavator No. Ill, 1841. Colored lithograph by P. S. Duval; S. Rufus Mason, artist.

Working model of a steam pumper engine, 1873, built by Amoskeag Manufacturing Company of Manchester, New Hampshire, for town of New Brighton (Staten Island), New York.

William S. Otis--not to be confused with E. G. Otis of elevator fame--designed a successful 'steam shovel,' illustrated here. Its basic operation functions remain unchanged.

This drawing is dated 1841. It was shown at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., in an exhibit titled 'Loose the Mighty Power,' which closed last January.


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