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Diffusion of steam-powered firefighting equipment in the United States: innovation adoption at the municipal level

Evangelos Falaris (), James G. Mulligan and Burton Abrams ()

Economics of Innovation and New Technology, 2018, vol. 27, issue 7, 652-669

Abstract: To date, econometrics-based diffusion studies have focused almost exclusively on the timing of adoption of new technology by firms and individuals. While there are detailed case studies on the evolution of firefighting for some of the largest U.S. cities in the nineteenth century, ours is the first formal econometric diffusion study of the timing of adoption of steam-powered, firefighting engines, whose first adoption was an important initial step in the evolution from independent volunteer fire departments to centralized control at the municipal level. We find evidence that the amount of manufacturing capital at risk of fire loss played a crucial role in influencing the timing of initial adoptions of this technology. This is consistent with the argument that increased industrialization in large cities was conducive to the growth in capital-intensive firefighting and centralized control of fire departments in urban America during this period.

Date: 2018
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DOI: 10.1080/10438599.2018.1396659

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