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The Clermont - Robert Fulton's Dream of Steam


 Robert Fulton's dream of steam-powered transportation by boat was fulfilled - 14/8/1807 - with a successful steamboat run up the Hudson River, from New York to Albany.

Business accomplishments soon followed, with Fulton and partner Robert R. Livingston commencing commercial service between the two points.

Fulton had conceived the idea of propelling boats by steam as early as 1793. He and Livingston built a steamboat in Paris in 1803, but the vessel sank in the Seine.

Despite legal questions over monopoly status, the ultimate access to establishing steamboat runs led to the expansion of service from 8 boats on the Hudson in 1819 to over 100 in 1840.

Studies in Paris provided Fulton with a background in French, German, Mathematics and Chemistry. One of his early nautical innovations was a submarine that he demonstrated successfully (1801/staying underwater for 4 hours) before Commissioners of the French Admiralty, though the French declined to back his concept.

Following the Clermont's success, Fulton, Livingston and a new 3rd partner - Nicholas J. Roosevelt - organised a shipyard in Pittsburgh in 1810, launching The New Orleans - which began regular runs between New Orleans and Natchez, Mississippi. By 1816, the fleet of passenger and freight steamboats on the Mississippi had vastly expanded in their use and influence and were very largely responsible for the opening of great new territories.

Fulton's passing - in 1815 - was mourned as a national calamity, but his vision has lived on to the present : steamboats still run as sources of joy and adventure on numerous rivers. 


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