Robert Fulton Went From Painting Miniatures To Building Submarines...Find Out!

Robert Fulton Discovery

Robert Fulton was an American inventor, engineer, and artist who brought steamboating from the experimental stage to commercial success. He also designed a system of inland waterways, a submarine, and a steam warship.

Although Fulton?s reception in London was cordial, his paintings made little impression; they showed neither the style nor the promise required to provide him more than a precarious living. Meanwhile, he became acquainted with new inventions for propelling boats: the water jet ejected by a steam pump and a single, mechanical paddle. His own experiments led him to conclude that several revolving paddles at the stern would be most effective.

Beginning in 1794 Fulton turned his principal efforts toward canal engineering. His Treatise on the Improvement of Canal Navigation, in 1796, dealt with a complete system of inland water transportation based on small canals extending throughout the countryside. He included details on inclined planes for raising boats. and bridge designs featuring bowstring beams to transmit only vertical loads to the piers. A few bridges were built to his design in the British Isles, but his canal ideas were nowhere accepted.

Robert Fulton invented the first commercially successful steamboat. He also built the famous Nautilus that was ordered by Napoleon Bonaparte.

In 1801 Fulton met Robert R. Livingston, a member of the committee that drafted the U.S. Declaration of Independence. Before becoming minister to France, Livingston had obtained a 20-year monopoly of steamboat navigation within the state of New York. Fulton ordered parts for a 24-horsepower engine from Boulton and Watt for a boat on the Hudson.

Arriving in New York in December 1806, Fulton at once set to work supervising the construction of the steamboat that had been planned in Paris. He also attempted to interest the U.S. government in a submarine, but his demonstration of it was a fiasco.

Plans for a submarine designed by Robert Fulton. Fulton's efforts in 1806 to interest the U.S. government in the vessel were not successful.

After building an engine house, raising the bulwark, and installing berths in the cabins of the now-renamed North River Steamboat, Fulton began commercial trips in September. He made three round trips fortnightly between New York and Albany, carrying passengers and light freight.

In 1811 the Fulton-designed, Pittsburgh-built New Orleans was sent south to validate the Livingston-Fulton steamboat monopoly of the New Orleans Territory. The trip was slow and perilous, river conditions being desperate because of America?s first recorded, and also the largest, earthquake, which had destroyed New Madrid just below the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. Fulton?s low-powered vessel remained at New Orleans, for it could go no farther upstream than Natchez. He built three boats for Western rivers that were based in New Orleans, but none could conquer the passage to Pittsburgh.

By 1810 three of Fulton?s boats served the Hudson and Raritan rivers. His steamboats also replaced the horse ferries that were used for heavily traveled river crossings in New York, Boston, and Philadelphia. He retained the typical broad double-ended hulls that needed no turning for the return passage.

A Hudson-Fulton Celebration in 1909 commemorated the success of the North River Steamboat of Clermont and the discovery in 1609 of the North River by the English navigator who was the first to sail upstream to Albany. A ?Robert Fulton? commemorative stamp was issued in 1965.


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