Robert Fulton

Fulton's Experiments with Steam
The Clermont
Robert Fulton

Fulton's Experiments with Steam

Fulton's experiments began while he was in Paris, and may have been stimulated by his acquaintance with Chancellor Livingston, who held the monopoly, offered by the legislature of the State of New York, for the navigation of the Hudson River, to be accorded to the beneficiary when he should make a successful voyage by steam. Livingston was now ambassador of the United States to the Court of France, and had become interested in the young artist-engineer, meeting him, presumably, at the house of his friend Barlow. It was determined to try the experiment at once, and on the Seine.

The giving of monopolies was, in those days, before the introduction of the modern systems of patent law, a very common method of securing to inventors their full reward. John Fitch had been given a monopoly of this kind by the United States government for a period of fourteen years from March 19, 1787; which monopoly was later (1798) repealed by Congress; this repeal being, in turn, denied by the courts, March 13, 1798, and subsequently continued to June 1, 1819, meantime being transferred to Nicholas J. Roosevelt. The State Act in favour of Livingston was passed to take effect April 5, 1803, and was repealed as unconstitutional, and conflicting with the jurisdiction of the United States, June 17, 1817. The whole system went out of use at the latter date, as it was found to be dangerous and troublesome, and on the whole far inferior to that admirable patent-system which succeeded it, and which has done so much to promote the marvellous prosperity of the country since the first quarter of the nineteenth centuty.

Fulton went to Plombieres in the spring of 1802, and there made his drawings and completed his plans for the construction of his first steamboat. Many attempts had been made, and many inventors were at work contemporaneously with him. Every modern device, - the jet-system, the "chaplet" of buckets on an endless chain or rope, the paddle-wheel, and even the screw-propeller - had been already proposed, and all were familiar to the well-read man of science of the day. Indeed, as Mr. Benjamin H. Latrobe, a distinguished engineer of the time, wrote in a paper presented May 20, 1803, to the Philadelphia Society, "A sort of mania began to prevail" for propelling boats by means of steam-engines. Fulton was one of those taking this mania most seriously. He made a number of models which worked successfully, and justified the proprietors of the new arrangement in building on a larger scale. A model of the proposed steamboat was made during the year 1802, and was presented to the committee of the French legislature with the note of which a copy is given below.

Paris, 4 Pluviose, Year 11 (1803).

Robert Fulton to Citizens Molar, Bandell, and Montgolfier,

Friends of the art, - I send you here with drawings sketched from a machine that I have constructed, and with which I purpose soon to make experiments in causing boats to move on rivers by the aid of fire-pumps (pompes-a-feu). My first aim, in occupying myself with this idea, was to put it in practice on the long rivers of America, where there are no tow-paths, and where these would scarcely be practicable, and where, consequently, the expenses of navigation by steam would be placed in comparison with that of manual labour, and not with that of horse-power, as in France.

In these drawings you will find nothing new, since they are only [those of] water-wheels, a method which has been often tried, and always abandoned because it was believed that a purchase could not be thereby obtained in the water. But after the experiments that I have made, I am convinced that the fault has not been in the wheel, but in ignorance of proportions, velocities, powers, and probably mechanical combinations. . . . Citizens, when my experiments are ready, I shall have the pleasure of inviting you to witness. them; and if they succeed, I reserve to myself the privilege of either making a present of my labours to the Republic, or deriving therefrom the advantages which the law authorizes. At present, I place these notes in your hands, so that if a like project should reach you before my experiments are finished, it may not have preference over my own.

Respectfully, ROBERT FULTON.

Fulton seems to have been considered, even at this early day, an authority on the subject of steam navigation. Admiral Preble, in his History of Steam Navigation, (p.35) quotes the following letter to a friend, written after his work on his own scheme for that season was over: -

Paris, the 20th Sept., 1802

To Mr. Fulner Skipwith.

Sir, The expense of a patent in France is 300 livres for 1,500 ditto for fifteen years. There can be no difficulty in obtaining a patent for the mode of propelling a boat which you have shown me; but if the author of the model wishes to be assured of the merits of his invention before he goes to the expense of a patent, I advise him to make the model of a boat in which he can place a clock-spring, which will give about eight revolutions. He can then combine the movements so as to try oars, paddles, and the leaves which he proposes. If he finds that the leaves drive the boat a greater distance in the same time than either oars or paddles, they consequently are a better application of power. About eight years ago, the Earl of Stanhope tried an experiment on similar leaves, wheels, oars, and paddles, and flyers similar to those of a smoke-jack, and found oars to be the best. The velocity with which a boat moves is in proportion as the sum of the surfaces of the oars, paddles, leaves, or other machine is to the bow of the boat presented to the water, and in proportion to the power with which such machinery is put in motion. Hence, if the use of the surfaces of the oars is equal to the sum of the surfaces of the leaves, and they pass through similar curves in the same time, the effect must be the same. But oars have their advantage; they return through air to make a second stroke, and hence create very little resistance; whereas the leaves return through water, and add considerably to the resistance, which resistance is increased as the velocity of the boat is augmented. No kind of machinery can create power. All that can be done is to apply the manual or other power to the best advantage. If the author of the model is fond of mechanics, he will be much amused, and not lose his time, by trying the experiments in the manner I propose; and this perhaps is the most prudent measure, before a patent is taken. I am, sir, with much respect,

Yours, Robert Fulton.

The introduction of steam-navigation became a success; but that success came so slowly as to permit all nations to avail themselves of it, and none sooner or more completely than the two most active in the production of this revolution - Great Britain and the United States. The British navy became a steam-navy, and the other nations of the world followed her lead; so that the strife of the century, at sea, has been a struggle between, and for, steam-fleets. In this direction, the introduction of steam has resulted in the increased expenditure of money on fleets in such enormous amounts as to tax the people to the very limit of their endurance; while the relative order in naval power of the greater nations has been comparatively little altered.

With the encouragement of Chancellor Livingston, who urged upon Fulton the importance of the introduction of steam-navigation into their native country, the latter continued his experimental work. Their boat was finished and set afloat on the Seine in 1803, in the early spring. Its proportions had been determined by careful computation from the results of no less careful experiment on the resistance of fluids and the power required for propelling vessels; and its speed was, therefore, more nearly in accord with the expectations and promises of the inventor than was the usual experience in those days.

Guided by these experiments and calculations, therefore, Fulton directed the construction of his vessel. The hull was sixty-six feet long, of eight feet beam, and of light draught. But unfortunately the hull was too weak for its machinery, and it broke in two and sank to the bottom of the Seine. Fulton at once set about repairing damages. He was compelled to direct the rebuilding of the hull, but the machinery was but slightly injured. In June, 1803, the reconstruction was complete, and the vessel was set afloat in July.

August 9, 1803, this boat was cast loose in presence of an immense concourse of spectators, induding a committee of the National Academy, consisting of Bougainville, Bossuet, Carnot, and Perier. The boat moved but slowly, making only between three and four miles an hour against the current, the speed through the water being about 4.5 miles; but this was, all things considered, a great success.

Livingston wrote home, describing the trial and its results, and procured the passage of an Act by the legislature of the State of New York, exiending, nominally to Fulton, a monopoly granted the former in 1798 for the term of twenty years from April 5, 1803, - the date of the new law, - and extending the time allowed for proving the practicability of driving a boat four miles an hour by steam to- two years from the same date. A later act further extended the time to April, 1807.

In May, 1804, Fulton went to England, giving up all hope of success in France with either his steamboats or his torpedoes, and the chapter of his work in Europe practically ends here. He had already written to Boulton & Watt, ordering an engine to be built from plans which he furnished them; but he had not informed them of the purpose to which it was to be applied. This engine 1 was to have a steam-cylinder two feet in diameter and of four feet stroke. Its form and proportions were substantially those of the boat-engine of 1803.

While Fulton was still abroad, John Fitch and Oliver Evans were pursuing a similar course of experiment, as were his contemporaries on the other side the Atlantic, and with more success. Fitch had made a number of fairly successful ventures, and had shown beyond question that the project of applying steam to ship-propulsion was a promising one; and he had only failed through lack of financial backing, and inability to appreciate the amount of power that must be employed to give his boats any considerable speed. Evans had made his "Oruktor Amphibolis," - a flat-bottomed vessel which he built at his works in Philadelphia, and impelled by its own engines, on wheels, to the bank of the Schuylkill, and then afloat, down the stream to its berth, by paddle-wheels driven by the same engines. Other inventors were working on both sides the ocean with apparently good reason to hope for success, and the times evidently were ripe for the man who should best combine all the requirements in a single experiment. The man to do this was Fulton.

Immediately on his arrival, in the winter of 1806-7, Fulton started on his boat, selecting Charles Brown as the builder, a well-known ship-builder of that time, and the builder of many of Fulton's later steam-vessels. The hull of this steamer, which was the first to establish a regular route and regular transportation of passengers and merchandise in America, - Fulton's first boat in his native country, - was 133 feet long, 18 feet beam, and 7 feet depth of hold. The engine was of 24 inches diameter of cylinder, 4 feet stroke of piston; and its boiler was 20 feet long, 7 feet high, and 8 feet wide. The tonnage was computed at 160. After its first season, its operation having satisfied all concerned of the promise of the venture, its hull was lengthened to 140 feet, and widened to 16.5 feet, thus being completely rebuilt; while its engines were altered in a number of details, Fulton furnishing the drawings for the alterations. Two more boats, the "Raritan" and the "Car of Neptune" were added to form the fleet of 1807, and steam-navigation was at last fairly begun in America, some years in advance of its establishment in Europe. The Legislature were so much impressed with this result that they promptly extended the monopoly previously given Fulton and Livingston, adding five years for every boat to be built and set in operation, up to a maximum not to exceed a total of thirty years.

The Clermont

The "Clermont," as Fulton called this first boat, was begun in the winter of 1806-7, and launched in the spring; the machinery was at once put on board, and in August, 1807, the craft was ready for the trial-trip. The boat was promptly started on her proposed trip to Albany and made the run with perfect success. Fulton's own account is as follows: -


SIR, - I arrived this afternoon at four o'clock, in the steamboat from Albany. As the success of my experiment gives me great hopes that such boats may be rendered of great importance to my country, to prevent erroneous opinions and give some satisfaction to my friends of useful improvements you will have the goodness to publish the following statement of facts: -

I left New York on Monday at one o'clock, and arrived at Clermont, the seat of Chancellor Livingston, at one o'clock on Tuesday time, twenty-four hours; distance, one hundred and ten miles. On Wednesday I departed from the Chancellor's at nine in the morning, and arrived at Albany at five in the afternoon: distance, forty miles; time, eight hours. The sum is one hundred and fifty miles in thirty-two hours, - equal to near five miles an hour.

On Thursday, at nine o'clock in the morning, I left Albany, and arrived at the Chancellor's at six in the evening. I started from thence at seven, and arrived at New York at four in the afternoon: time, thirty hours; space run through, one hundred and fifty miles, equal to five miles an hour. Throughout my whole way, both going and returning, the wind was ahead. No advantage could be derived from my sails. The whole has therefore been performed by the power of the steam-engine.

I am, Sir your obedient servant, ROBERT FULTON.

Fulton gives the following account of the same voyage in a letter to his friend, Mr. Barlow :

"My steamboat voyage to Albany and back has turned out rather more favourably than I had calculated. The distance from New York to Albany is one hundred and fifty miles. I ran it up in thirty-two hours, and down in thirty. I had a light breeze against me the whole way, both going and coming, and the voyage has been performed wholly by the power of the steam-engine. I overtook many sloops and schooners beating to windward, and parted with them as if they had been at anchor.

"The power of propelling boats by steam is now fully proved. The morning I left New York, there were not perhaps thirty persons in the city who believed that the boat would ever move one mile an hour, or be of the least utility; and while we were putting off from the wharf; which was crowded with spectators, I heard a number of sarcastic remarks. This is the way in which ignorant men compliment what they call philosophers and projectors. "Having employed much time, money, and zeal in accomplishing this work, it gives me, as it will you, great pleasure to see it answer my expectations. It will give a cheap and quick conveyance to the merchandise on the Mississippi, Missouri, and other great rivers, which are now laying open their treasures to the enterprise of our countrymen; and, although the prospect of personal emolument has been some inducement to me, yet I feel infinitely more pleasure in reflecting on the immense advantage my country will derive from the invention," etc.

Professor Renwick, describing the "Clermont" of 1807 as she appeared on her first trip, says: "She was very unlike any of her successors, and very dissimilar from the shape in which she appeared a few months afterward. With a model resembling a Long Island skiff, she was decked for a short distance at stem and stern. The engine was open to view, and from the engine aft a house like that of a canalboat was raised to cover the hoiler and the apartment for the officers. There were no wheel-guards. The rudder was of the shape used in sailing-vessels, and moved by a tiller. The boiler was of the form then used in Watt's engines, and was set in masonry. The condenser was of the size used habitually in land engines, and stood, as was the practice in them, in a large cold-water cistern. The weight of the masonry and the great capacity of the cold-water cistern diminished very materially the buoyancy of the vessel. The rudder had so little power that she could hardly be managed. The skippers of the river craft, who at once saw that their business was doomed, took advantage of the unwieldiness of the vessel to run foul of her as soon as they thought they had the law on their side. Thus, in several instances, the steamer reached one or the other termini of the route with but a single wheel."

The "American Citizen" of August 17, 1807, says: - "Mr. Fulton's ingenious steamboat, invented with a view to the navigation of the Mississippi, from New Orleans upward, sails today from the North River, near State's Prison, to Albany. The velocity of the steamboat is calculated at four miles an hour. It is said it will make a progress of two against the current of the Mississippi, and if so it will certainly be a very valuable acquisition to the commerce of Western States."

What would this sanguine editor have thought, had he been assured that the "Clermont " was the pioneer of a fleet that should include steamships of ten thousand tons, or even as the "Great Eastern," of thirty thousand tons displacement; ships that should make a speed of twenty miles an hour at sea; small torpedo boats carrying out the idea of Fulton, and pursuing their enemy with their destructive little weapons at speeds approaching thirty miles an hour; and river boats passing over the very route chosen for Fulton's first trial-trip at the speed of twenty-seven miles an hour, and at their "slow speeds," running from New York to Albany in ten hours or less? What would he have thought, had he dreamed of steaming from New York to Newport, to Fall River, or to Providence in ten to twelve hours? Of going from St. Louis to New Orleans in four days? Of crossing the Atlantic in six?

The engine of the "Clermont" was similar to that of Fulton's French boat, and of rather peculiar construction, the piston, E, being coupled to the crank-shaft, 0, by a bell-crank, I H P, and a connecting-rod, P Q, the paddle-wheel shaft, M N; being separate from the crank-shaft, and connected with the latter by gearing, O O. The paddle-wheels had buckets four feet long, with a dip of two feet.

The voyage of the "Clermont" to Albany was attended by some ludicrous incidents. Mr. Colden says that she was described "as a monster, moving on the waters, defying wind and tide, and breathing flames and smoke."

This boat used dry pine wood for fuel, and the flames rose to a considerable distance above the smoke-pipe; and mingled smoke and sparks rose high in the air. "This uncommon light first attracted the attention of the crews of other vessels. Notwithstanding the wind and tide were averse to its approach, they saw with astonishment that it was rapidly coming toward them; and when it came so near that the noise of the machinery and paddles was heard, the crews (if what was said in the newspapers of the time be true) in some instances shrank beneath their decks from the terrific sight, and left their vessels to go on shore; while others prostrated themselves, and besought Providence to protect them from the approach of the horrible monster which was marching on the tides, and lighting its path by the fires which it vomited."

Fulton used several of the now familiar features of the American river boat, and subsequently introduced others.

The success of the "Clermont" on the trial-trip was such that Fulton soon after advertised the vessel as a regular passenger boat between New York and Albany.

"The traveller of to-day, as he goes on board the great steamboats 'St. John' or 'Drew,' can scarcely imagine the difference between such floating palaces and the wee-bit punts on which our fathers were wafted sixty years ago. We may, however, get some idea of the sort of thing then in use by a perusal of the steamboat announcements of that time two of which are as follows : -

"'September 2, 1807. "'The North River Steamboat will leave Pauler's Hook Ferry [now Jersey City] on Friday, the 4th of September, at 9 in the morning, and arrive at Albany on Saturday, at 9 in the afternoon. Provisions, good berths, and accommodations are provided.

" 'The charge to each passenger is as follows:

To:Dols.Time in hours

[Note: So we can tell that it would have taken 3 hours to travel by steamboat from Newburgh to Poughkeepsie.]

Mr. Fulton's new-invented Steamboat, which is fitted up in a neat style for passengers, and is intended to run from New York to Albany as a Packet, left here this morning with 90 passengers, against a strong head-wind. Notwithstanding which, it was judged she moved through the waters at the rate of six miles an hour.' "

During the next winter the "Clermont" was repaired and enlarged, and in the summer of 1808 was again on the route to Albany; and, meantime, the two new steamboats, the "Raritan" and the "Car of Neptune," had been built. In the year 1811 Fulton built the "Paragon."

Fulton patented novel details in steam-engines and steam-vessels in 1811, and thus secured some valuable property, though by no means sufficient to insure control of his routes. This he retained for a few years; but up to 1812, at least, there were continual attempts to establish rival lines, and vessels of all kinds, driven by engines of all sorts, practicable and impracticable, were built or proposed by ambitious inventors and "grasping capitalists." In the winter of 1812 an injunction was obtained from the courts in such terms that a perpetual injunction could be served on all the opposition lines, and Fulton was for a brief period allowed to pursue his own course in peace. A number of boats were now built for the rapidly increasing traffic of the rivers of the United States, and he placed some even on the "Father of Waters," where he fulfilled the prediction of his unfortunate predecessor, Fitch, whose remains now lie quietly beside one of its tributaries.

Steam," says the "Gentleman's Magazine" for December, 1809, "has been applied in America to the purpose of inland navigation with the greatest success. The passage boat between New York and Albany is one hundred and sixty feet long, and wide in proportion for accommodations, consisting of fifty-two berths, besides sofas, etc., for one hundred passengers; and the machine which moves her wheels is equal to the power of twenty-four horses, and is kept in motion by steam from a copper boiler eight or ten feet in length. Her route is a distance of one hundred and fifty miles, which she performs regularly twice a week, and sometimes in the short space of thirty-two hours." An amazing tale!

According to Colden, the last boat which was constructed under Mr. Fulton's directions, and according to drawings and plans furnished by him, is that which, in 1816, navigated the sound from New York to New Haven. She was of nearly four hundred tons burden, built of uncommon strength, and fitted up with all conveniences and great elegance. She was the first steamboat with a round bottom like a sea-going ship. This form was adopted, because, for a great part of the route, she would be as much exposed as on the ocean. It was therefore, necessary, to make her a good sea-boat. She passed daily, and at all times of the tide, the then dangerous strait of Hell-Gate where, for a mile, she frequently encountered a current running at the rate of five or six miles an hour. For some distance she had within a few yards, on each side, rocks and whirlpools which rivalled Scylla and Charybdis, even as they are poetically described. This passage, previously to its being navigated by this steamer, was supposed to be impassable except at the change of the tide; and many shipwrecks had been occasioned by a mistake in time. "The boat passing through these whirlpools with rapidity, while the angry waters foamed against her bows, and appeared to raise themselves in obstinate resistance to her passage, is a proud triumph of human ingenuity. The owners, as the highest tribute they had in their power to offer to his genius, and as an evidence of the gratitude they owed him, called her the "Fulton."

A steam ferry-boat was built to ply between New York and Jersey City in 1812, and the next year two others, to connect with Brooklyn. These were "twin-boats" the two hulls being connected by a "bridge" or deck common to both. The Jersey ferry was crossed in fifteen minutes, the distance being a mile and a half. Fulton's boat carried, at one load, eight carriages, and about thirty horses, and still had room for three hundred or four hundred foot-passengers.

Fulton's description of one of these boats is as follows:

"She is built of two boats, each ten feet beam, eighty feet long, and five feet deep in the hold; which boats are distant from each ofner ten feet, confined by strong transverse beam-knees and diagonal traces, forming a deck thirty feet wide and eighty feet long. The propelling water-wheel is placed between the boats to prevent it from injury from ice and shocks on entering or approaching the dock. The whole of the machinery being placed between the two boats, leaves ten feet on the deck of each boat for carriages, horses and cattle, etc.; the other, having neat benches and covered with an awning, is for passengers, and there is also a passage and stairway to a neat cabin, which is fifty feet long and five feet clear from the floor to the beams, furnished with benches, and provided with a stove in winter. Although the two boats and space between them gives thirty feet beam, yet they present sharp bows to the water, and have only the resistance in the water of one boat of twenty beam. Both ends being alike, and each having a rudder, she never puts about."


Meantime, the War of 1812 was in progress, and Fulton designed a steam vessel-of-war, which was then considered a wonderfully formidable craft. Fulton proposed to build a vessel capable of carrying a heavy battery, and of steaming four miles an hour. The ship was fitted with furnaces for red-hot shot, and some of her guns were to be discharged below the water-line. The estimated cost was $320,000. The construction of the vessel was authorized by Congress in March, 1814; the keel was laid June 20, 1814, and the vessel was launched October 29 of the same year.

The "Fulton the First," as she was called, was then considered an enormous vessel. The hull was double, 156 feet long, 56 feet wide, and 20 feet deep, measuring 2,475 tons. In May the ship was ready for her engine, and in July was so far completed as to steam, on a trial-trip, to the ocean at Sandy Hook and back, 53 miles, in eight hours and twenty minutes. In September, with armament and stores on board, the ship made for sea and for battle; the same route was traversed, the vessel making 5.5 miles an hour. Her engine, having a steam-cylinder 48 inches in diameter and of 5 feet stroke of piston, was furnished with steam by a copper boiler 22 feet long, 12 feet wide, and 8 feet high, and turned a wheel, between the two halls, 16 feet in diameter, with "buckets" 14 feet long, and a dip of 4 feet. The sides were 4 feet 10 inches thick, and her spar-deck was surrounded by musket-proof bulwarks. The armament consisted of 30 32-pounders, intended to discharge red-hot shot. There was one mast for each hull, fitted with lateen sails. Large pumps were carried, intended to throw streams of water on the decks of the enemy, with a view to disabling him by wetting his ordnance and ammunition. A submarine gun was to have been carried at each bow, to discharge shot weighing one hundred pounds, at a depth of ten feet below water.

This, for the time, tremendous engine-of-war was constructed in response to a demand from the citizens of New York for a means of harbour defence. They appointed what was called a Coast and Harbour Defence Committee; and this committee examined Fulton's plans, and called the attention of the General Government to them. The Government appointed a Board of Experts from among its most famous naval officers, induding Commodore Decatur, Captains Paul Jones, Evans, and Biddle, Commodore Perry; and Captains Warrington and Lewis. They reported unanimously in favour of the proposed construction, and set forth her advantages over all previously known forms of war-vessel. The citizens' committee offered to guarantee the expense of building the ship; and the construction was undertaken under the supervision of a committee appointed for the purpose, consisting of several then distinguished men, both military and naval. Congress authorized the building of coast-defence vessels by the President, in March, 1814, and Fulton at once started the work of construction, Messrs. Adam and Noah Brown building the hull, and the engines being placed on board and in working order within a year.

Robert Fulton

The death of Fulton took place in the year 1815, while in the height of his fame and of his usefulness. He had been called to Trenton, New Jersey, in January of that year, to give testimony before the State legislature in reference to the proposed repeal of laws which had interfered with the operation of the ferry-boats and other steam-vessels plying between the city of New York and the New Jersey shore. It happened that the weather was cold, he was exposed to its severity both at Trenton and, especially, crossing the Hudson River on his return, and took a cold from which he never recovered. He became apparently convalescent after a few days; but insisted on visiting the new steam-frigate too soon, to inspect work in progress there, and on his return home experienced a relapse, - his illness finally resulting in his death, February 24, 1815. He left a wife (nee Harriet Livingston) and four children, three of whom were daughters.

Robert Fulton died in the service of the United States government; and although engaged for years in devoting time and talents to the best interests of our country, still the public records show that the Government was indebted to his estate upwards of $100,000 for moneys actually expended and services rendered by him, agreeably to contract.

When the legislature, then in session at Albany, heard of the death of Mr. Fulton, they expressed their sentiments of regret by resolving that the members of both houses should wear mourning for six weeks. This is the only instance, According to Colden, up to that time, of such pubhc testimonials of regret, esteem, and respect being offered on the death of a private citizen, who was only distinguished by his virtues, his genius, and his talents.

He was buried February 25, 1815. His funeral was attended by all the oflicers of the National and State governments then in the city, by the magistracy, the common council, a number of societies, and a greater number of citizens than had ever been collected on any similar occasion. When the procession began to move, and until it arrived at Trinity Church, minute-guns were fired from the steam-frigate and the Battery. His body is deposited in a vault belonging to the Livingston family.

Mr. Fulton is described as a tall man, about six feet in height, slender, but well proportioned. "Nature had made him a gentleman, and bestowed upon him ease and gracefulness." He had too much good sense to exhibit affectation, and confidence in his own worth and talents gave him a pleasing deportment in all companies. His features were strong and handsome; he had large dark eyes, a projecting brow, and features expressive of intelligence and thought; his disposition was mild yet lively, and he was fond of society. He conversed with energy, fluency, and correctness; and, owing more to experience and reflection than to books, he was often interesting in his originality.

In all his social relations he was kind, generous, and affectionate. His only use for money was to make it an aid to charity, hospitality, and the promohon of science. He was especially distinguished by constancy, industry, and that union of patience and persistence which overcame every difficulty.

Robert Fulton has never, even yet, received either in kind or degree the credit that is justly his due. Those members of the engineering profession who have become familiar with his work through the ordinary channels of information generally look upon him as a talented artist and fortunate amateur engineer, whose fancies led him into many strange vagaries, and whose enthusiastic advocacy of a new method of transportation - the success of which was already assured by the ingenuity and skill of James Watt, Oliver Evans, and John Fitch, and by the really intelligent methods of those early professional engineers, the Messrs. Stevens - gave him the opportunity of grasping the prize of which Chancellor Livingston had secured the legal control. By such engineers as know only of his work on the Seine and the Hudson in the introduction of the steamboat, he is not considered as an inventor, but simply as one who profited by the inventions of others, and who, taking advantage of circumstances, and gaining credit which was not of right wholly his own, acquired a reputation vastly out of proportion to his real merits.

The layman, judging only from the popular traditions, and the incomplete historical accounts that have come to him, supposes Robert Fulton to have been the inventor of the steamboat, and on that ground regards him as one of the greatest mechanics and engineers that the world has seen.

The truth undoubtedly is, as we have now seen, that Fulton was not "the inventor of the steamboat," and that the reputation acquired by his successful introduction of steam-navigation is largely accidental, and is principally due to the possession, in company with Livingston, of a monopoly which drove from this most promising field those original and skilful engineers, Evans and the Stevenses. No one of the essential devices successfully used by Fulton in the "Clermont," his first North River steamboat, was new; and no one of them differed, to any great extent, from devices successfully adopted by earlier experimenters. Fulton's success was a commercial success purely. John Stevens had, in 1804, built a successful screw steam-vessel; and his paddle-steamer of 1807, the "Phoenix," was very possibly a better piece of engineering than the "Clermont." John Fitch had, still earlier, used both screw and paddle. In England, Miller and Symmington and Lord Dundas had antedated even Fulton's earliest experiments on the Seine. Indeed, it seems not at all unlikely that Papin, a century earlier (in 1707), had he been given a monopoly of steam-navigation on the Weser or the Fulda, and had he been joyfully hailed by the Hanoverians as a public benefactor, as was Fulton in the United States, instead of being proscribed and assaulted by the mob who destroyed his earlier "Clermont," might have been equally successful; or it may be that the French inventor, Jouffroy, who experimented on the rivers of France twenty-five years before Fulton, might, with similar encouragement, have gained an equal success.

Yet although Fulton was not in any true sense "the inventor of the steamboat," his services in the work of introducing that miracle of our modern time cannot be overestimated; and, aside from his claim as the first to grasp success among the many who were then bravely struggling to place steam-navigation on a permanent and safe basis, he is undeniably entitled to all the praise that has ever been accorded him on such different ground.

Robert Fulton's wife, Harriet Livingston, was the 2nd cousin, once removed, of Henry Livingston, Jr. Harriet was the daughter of Walter Livingston, the son of Colonel Robert Livingston, 3rd Lord of Livingston Manor. Fulton's partner in the steamship, Chancellor Robert R. Livingston, Jr., was the son of Robert R. Livingston and Margaret Beekman, both Henry's 1st cousins, once removed.

Relationships are made up of two parts - the "cousinhood" and the amount removed. The first identifies how close the families were - first cousins, for example, would be the children of siblings. The amount removed can be thought of as the difference in generations. Henry Livingston was born in 1748, making him two years younger than Chancellor Livingston, his second cousin. The Chancellor's parents were of Henry's parents' generation, and are once removed from Henry. The Fultons were closer to the age of Henry's children, and Harriet is Henry's 2nd cousin, once removed the other direction.


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