Today on “Days to Remember” we celebrate Robert Fulton who was the inventor and engineer of the steam boat.
Robert Fulton was born on a farm in Little Britain, Pennsylvania, on November 14, 1765.
Fulton stayed in Philadelphia for six years, where he painted portraits and landscapes, drew houses and machinery, and was able to send money home to help support his mother. In 1785 he bought a farm at Hopewell Township in Washington County moved his mother and family into it.
While in Philadelphia, he met Benjamin Franklin, who shared a common interest in because of his scientific and inventing knowledge.
Fulton became caught up in the enthusiasm of the “Canal Mania” and in 1793 began developing his ideas for tub-boat canals with inclined planes instead of locks. He obtained a patent for this idea in 1794 and also began working on ideas for the steam power of boats.
In Paris, Fulton met James Rumsey, where Fulton was an apprentice. Rumsey was an inventor from Virginia who ran his own first steamboat up the Potomac River near Shepherdstown, then in Virginia in 1786.
As early as 1793, Fulton proposed plans for steam-powered vessels to both the United States and British governments, and in England he met the Duke of Bridgewater, whose canal, the first to be constructed in Britain, was being used for trials of a steam tug.
Fulton designed the first working submarine, the “Nautilus” between 1793 and 1797, while living in France. When tested his submarine went underwater for 17 minutes in 25 feet of water. He asked the government to subsidize its construction but he was turned down twice. Eventually he approached the Minister of Marine himself and in 1800 was granted permission to build.
In 1806, Fulton returned to America and married Harriet Livingston, the niece of Robert Livingston and daughter of Walter Livingston. They had four children: Robert, Julia, Mary and Cornelia. In 1807, Fulton and Livingston together built the first commercial steamboat, the “North River Steamboat” (later known as the “Clermont”), which carried passengers between New York City and upstream to the state capital Albany, New York.
As we celebrate Robert Fulton’s birthday today we remember how Steam boat evolved over time, and even though we don’t see many of them today.
There’s a working Steam boat still used today at the various Disneyland Theme Parks.
Written & Designed by JD Mitchell