Overview of the Songs and Poems in this Category:

Most of these items are drawn from the theatre and pleasure_garden repertoire. Many were anthologised in songsters and pirated by broadside printers. Several of the songs begin as more or less reliable reports of developing steam technology and end with flights of fantasy. The category includes several derivatives of The Cork Leg and a discussion of those derivates is included here.

Main Themes and Motifs

- Fantastic machinery powered by steam
- The danger of steam power run out of control
- Speculation about advances in the use of steam power


1820-29 507; 722
1830-39 402; 404; 415; 416; 593; 664
1840-49 163; 405

Uncertain: 075; 187; 395; 417

Historical Background

The dramatic social changes of the early 19th century gave rise to anxieties of the sort characterised by Alvin Tofler as future shock [i]. The rapid adoption of steam power was a direct cause of these anxieties but it was also a lightening conductor through which other anxieties arising from - for example - the rapid growth of cities could be grounded.


[i] Tofler, Alvin - Future Shock (Random House, 1970)