09-046 Robert Fulton's Folly I
Wednesday Mar 12, 2014
Lead: From the shoreline of the Hudson River spectators witnessed a shocking sight. There in the river was a mechanical monster spewing flames and smoke. It was Mr. Fulton's Folly.
Intro: A Moment In Time with Dan Roberts.
Content: Robert Fulton's first steamboat ushered in a new era of transportation and industrialization. The North River Steamboat of Clermont, later simply referred to as Clermont, was named after the early Dutch name for the Hudson River. Clermont was also the hometown of Fulton's partner and financier, Robert Livingston, prominent New York lawyer, signer of the Declaration of Independence, and former minister to France.
Although often incorrectly credited with the invention of the steamboat, Robert Fulton did substantially improve on the work of many. Fulton's contribution was to cobble together and enhance previously invented components such the steam engine, boiler, and paddle wheel; the result: an engineering triumph - the first commercially successful steamboat. Although steam engines had powered textile mills since the late 1700s the idea that a boat could be successfully propelled by anything but the wind met with the usual bone-headed skepticism that often greets technological innovation. Many believed Fulton's "steamboat" contrivance would simply blow up.
Accompanying Fulton on that maiden voyage of the Clermont in August 1807 were forty stylishly dressed passengers, mostly friends and relatives of Livingston, who had persuaded them to go on a little jaunt from New York to Albany. Later Fulton recalled, "My friends were silent, sad and weary. I read in their looks nothing but disaster, and almost repented of my efforts."
Next Time: Voyage on the Hudson.
Research assistance by Ann H. Johnson. The producer of A Moment In Time is Steve Clark. At the University of Richmond, this is Dan Roberts.
Dickinson, H. W. Robert Fulton: Engineer and Artist. December 1996. http://www.history.rochester.edu/steam/dickinson (October 10, 2003).
Flammang, James M. Robert Fulton: Inventor and Steamboat Builder. Berkeley Heights, NJ: Enslow Publishers, 1999.
"Fulton, Robert." Encyclopedia Britannica. 2003. Encyclopedia Britannica Premium Service. 10 Oct, 2003.
Gutierrez, Joseph A., Jr. "Steamboat," World Book Online Reference Centre,
http://www.worldbookonlin.com/ar?/na/ar/co/ar531260.html (October 15, 2003).
Hudson River Maritime Museum. The Clermont Steamboat. October 10, 2003. http://www.ulster.net/-hrmm/steamboats/clermont2.html
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Inventor of the Week: Robert Fulton. October 10, 2003. http://web.mit.edu/invent/iow/fulton.html.
Philip, Cynthia Owen. Robert Fulton: A Biography. New York: Franklin Watts, 1985.
Thurston, Robert H. "Makers of America: Robert Fulton: His Life and its Results. December 1996.
http://www.history.rochester.edu/steam/thurston/fulton (October 10, 2003).
Copyright 2014 by Dan Roberts Enterprises, Inc.
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