The Steamboat

The other event of 1807 was the completion of Robert Fulton’s steamboat. The United States was growing so fast that a quicker and easier way of traveling had become very necessary. Fulton and others had already been working at this invention more than twenty years. In spite of many failures, they kept on, until Fulton finally built the Clermont. It was advertised to sail up the Hudson River, and, as it was a great curiosity, a big crowd collected to see it start. Nearly all the spectators made fun of it declaring it would never go, and when it did set out they wonderingly cried: “She moves! she moves!”

Not only did the boat move, but it went up to Albany in thirty–two hours—a rate of speed which seemed so great then that people could hardly believe it either possible or safe. Still, before long Fulton’s boat made regular trips up and down the stream. For a short time it was the only successful steamboat in our country, but two years later others were plying along the Delaware and Raritan rivers and on Lake Champlain.

In 1811, the first steamboat went from Pittsburgh to New Orleans, creating a great sensation all along its way. Although vessels without sails or oars were a surprise to all, they especially amazed the Negroes and Indians. Indeed, we are told that when the first steamboat was seen on Lake Michigan, the savages called it “Walk in the Water.” Some of them, too, actually believed a joker who told them it was drawn by a team of trained sturgeons!