Thursday Feb. 11, 2021’s Smile of the Day: The Steamboat
On this Day:
In 1809, Robert Fulton patented the steamboat.
Robert Fulton (November 14, 1765 – February 25, 1815) was an American engineer and inventor who is widely credited with developing a commercially successful steamboat; the first was called North River Steamboat (later Clermont). In 1807 that steamboat traveled on the Hudson River with passengers, from New York City to Albany and back again, a round trip of 300 miles (480 km), in 62 hours. The success of his steamboat changed river traffic and trade on major American rivers.
In 1800, Fulton had been commissioned by Napoleon Bonaparte, leader of France, to attempt to design a submarine; he produced Nautilus, the first practical submarine in history. Fulton is also credited with inventing some of the world’s earliest naval torpedoes for use by the Royal Navy.
Fulton became interested in Steam engines and the idea of steamboats in 1777 when he was around age 12 and visited state delegate William Henry of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, who was interested in this topic. Henry had learned about inventor James Watt and his Watt steam engine on an earlier visit to England.
As early as 1793, Fulton proposed plans for steam-powered vessels to both the United States and British governments. The first steamships had appeared considerably earlier. The earliest steam-powered ship, in which the engine moved oars, was built by Claude de Jouffroy in France. Called Palmipède, it was tested on the Doubs in 1776. In 1783, de Jouffroy built Phyroscaphe, the first paddle steamer, which sailed successfully on the Saône. The first successful trial run of a steamboat in America had been made by inventor John Fitch, on the Delaware River on August 22, 1787. William Symington had successfully tried steamboats in 1788, and it seems probable that Fulton was aware of these developments.
In 1806, Fulton returned to the United States. In 1807, he and Robert R. Livingston built the first commercially successful steamboat, North River Steamboat (later known as Clermont). Livingston’s shipping company began using it to carry passengers between New York City and up the Hudson River to the state capital Albany. Clermont made the 150-mile (240 km) trip in 32 hours. Passengers on the maiden voyage included a lawyer Jones and his family from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. His infant daughter Alexandra Jones later served as a Union nurse on a steamboat hospital in the American Civil War.
From 1811 until his death, Fulton was a member of the Erie Canal Commission, appointed by the Governor of New York.
Fulton’s final design was the floating battery Demologos. This first steam-driven warship in the world was built for the United States Navy for the War of 1812. The heavy vessel was not completed until after Fulton’s death and was named in his honor.
From October 1811 to January 1812, Fulton, along with Livingston and Nicholas Roosevelt (1767–1854), worked together on a joint project to build a new steamboat, New Orleans, sturdy enough to take down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers to New Orleans, Louisiana. It traveled from industrial Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where it was built, with stops at Wheeling, Virginia; Cincinnati, Ohio; past the “Falls of the Ohio” at Louisville, Kentucky; to near Cairo, Illinois, and the confluence with the Mississippi River; and down past Memphis, Tennessee, and Natchez, Mississippi, to New Orleans some 90 miles (140 km) by river from the Gulf of Mexico coast. This was less than a decade after the United States had acquired the Louisiana Territory from France. These rivers were not well settled, mapped, or protected. By achieving this first breakthrough voyage and also proving the ability of the steamboat to travel upstream against powerful river currents, Fulton changed the entire trade and transportation outlook for the American heartland.
Fulton was elected a member of the American Antiquarian Society in 1814.
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania donated a marble statue of Fulton to the National Statuary Hall Collection in the United States Capitol. Fulton was also honored for his development of steamship technology in New York City’s Hudson-Fulton Celebration of the Centennial in 1909. A replica of his first steam-powered steam vessel, Clermont, was built for the occasion.
Five ships of the United States Navy have borne the name USS Fulton in honor of Robert Fulton.
Fulton Hall at the United States Merchant Marine Academy houses the Department of Marine Engineering and included laboratories for diesel and steam engineering, refrigeration, marine engineering, thermodynamics, materials testing, machine shop, mechanical engineering, welding, electrical machinery, control systems, electric circuits, engine room simulators and graphics.
Robert Fulton (with Samuel F. B. Morse) depicted on the reverse of the 1896 $2 Silver Certificate from the United States Treasury
Bronze statues of Fulton and Christopher Columbus represent commerce on the balustrade of the galleries of the Main Reading Room in the Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. They are two of 16 historical figures, each pair representing one of the 8 pillars of civilization.
In 2006, Fulton was inducted into the “National Inventors Hall of Fame” in Alexandria, Virginia (per Wikipedia).
First, a Story:
A steamboat captain brought his son along on a short cruise upriver to show him what he does for a living, but all the kid wanted to do was steer the boat. Insisting that his father taught him enough to handle the job, he asked the pilot to let him take the helm…
“Okay…” said the pilot. “But you must pass a small test first. If I asked you to turn to the left, what nautical term should I use?”
“Turn to port!” said the boy.
“Correct!” said the pilot.
“If I wanted you to turn the boat to the right, what direction would that be?” “Starboard!” said the boy, grinning from ear to ear.
“Good for you!” said the pilot.
“And straight?” asked the pilot.
The boy quickly replied, “Without ice!”
Second, a Song:
Blue Water Highway is a band from the southern USA.
Blue Water Highway comes from the working class, coastal town background that has informed the work of so many classic American musicians. They take their name from the roadway that links their hometown of Lake Jackson, Texas to Galveston, where the cops, the teachers, and the chemical plant workers travel to work hard and to play hard, blowing off steam, dancing to their favorite bands. Blue Water Highway’s music is the soundtrack for their lives.
Their upcoming album, Paper Airplanes, will be released in March 2021. Beautiful melodies and arrangements support lyrical themes of childhood wonder and re-enchantment on recent singles “All Will Be Well,” and “Dog Days” (from bluewaterhighway.com).
Here is Blue Water Highway performing their “Steamboat Song”. I hope you enjoy this!
Thought for the Day:
“Every smart person that I admire in the world, and those I semi-fear, is focused on this concept of crypto for a reason. They understand that this is the driving force of the fourth industrial revolution: steam engine, electricity, then the microchip – blockchain and crypto is the fourth.” – Brock Pierce
Have a great day!
Dave & Colleen
© 2021 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky