The steam engine was the most significant social change in the 1800's because people needed a faster and safer way to travel
"The development of the steam engine in the 1700's made modern industry possible. Until then, people had to depend on the power of their own muscles or on animal, wind, and water power." (World book student J.P. Hartman.)
"The device consisted of a small, hollow globe mounted on a pipe running to a steam kettle. Two L-shaped pipes, it caused the globe to whirl. But this device performed no useful work. Hundreds of years passed before the first successful steam engines were developed in the 1600's."
"In 1698 Thomas Savery, an englishman, pateted the first practical steam engine, a pump to drain water from mines. Savery's pump had no moving parts other than valve, operated by hand. These were turned to let steam enter a sealed vessel." (J.P. Hartman.)
People needed a safer and faster way to travel, the westward expansion was happeing during this time
The steam boat helped people travel west faster because the water route was quicker and safer than the land route,