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steamship

Early Steam-powered Ships

Marquis Claude de Jouffroy d'Abbans is generally credited with the first experimentally successful application of steam power to navigation; in 1783 his Pyroscaphe ran against the current of the Saone River for 15 min, although the boiler could not generate enough steam for extended operations. In 1787 a steamboat built by James Rumsey of Maryland was demonstrated on the Potomac River; propelled by a stream of water forced out of the stern by steam pressure, the vessel attained a speed of 4 mi (6.4 km) per hr. Rumsey received a grant to navigate the waters of New York, Maryland, and Virginia. In 1790, John Fitch, who had previously built several successful steamboats, one of which operated in 1787, built a vessel capable of 8 mi (12.9 km) per hr which plied the Delaware River between Philadelphia and Burlington, N.J. Other early American steamboat inventors were Samuel Morey, Nathan Read, and John Stevens. In 1807, Robert Fulton launched the Clermont, 150 ft (46 m) long and powered by a Boulton and Watt steam engine. It ran from New York City to Albany (150 mi/241 km) in 32 hr and made the return trip in 30 hr. On the other side of the Atlantic, the Scotsman Henry Bell launched the Comet in 1812.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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