Horse-drawn wagon, 1808. Horses were so widely used that their strength became a measure of the power of a steam engine - 'horsepower'.
Image: Science Museum/SSPL

Impact

James Watt's steam engine could drive any type of machinery, anywhere, at any time. This unprecedented capability was summarised by Matthew Boulton in 1796:

'One bushel (84lbs) of... coal will Raise 30 million lbs of water 1 foot high Grind & dress 10, or 11, or 12 bushels of wheat... Turn 1000 or more cotton spinning spindles per hour Roll and slit 4cwt of bar iron into small nailor's rods Do as much work per hour as 10 horses.'