The scarcity of quantitative evidence on economic growth in the nineteenth century is a strong incentive for the use of representative indicators, instead of compound indexes or supplemented by them. Consumption series of coal, iron, and cotton are prominent candidates to serve this purpose, due to the central roles played by these materials in European industrialization. A further point in their favor is the relatively high availability and quality of mining and foreign trade statistics. The specific functions and link-ages of those three staples, however, were quite different, and thus their growth paths represent different aspects and processes. For the overall modernizing transformation of an economy, coal consumption evidently suggests itself as the best single indicator, at least until the end of the century. Its growth reflects the increasing output of industry, transportation, and even agriculture, inasmuch as they relied on coal for heat and/or for motive power. This means that coal stands for a broad cross-section of the economy, and furthermore, for a growing one. The substitution of mineral fuel for wood or charcoal and of steam for water power was not only the most general component of industrialization, in the wider sense of the term. It also was a prerequisite for the growth potential of firms and industries in many instances, among them such strategic sectors as iron and steel or overland transportation. Similarly, the introduction of steam engines was a characteristic of the innovating firm in agriculture and in land reclamation. On these grounds one would expect the growth of coal consumption to represent the pace of transition to modern economic growth, rather than the growth of industrial product only.