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A History of the Growth of the Steam-Engine

Lord Dundas and William Symmington


[72] This is substantially an arrangement that has recently become common. It has been repatented by later inventors.

[Illustration: FIG. 73.--Read's Boiler in Section, 1788.]

[Illustration: FIG. 74.--Read's Multi-Tubular Boiler, 1788.]

This boiler was intended to be used in both steamboats and steam-carriages. The first drawings were made in 1788 or 1789, as were those of a peculiar form of steam-engine which also resembled very closely that afterward constructed in Great Britain by Trevithick.[73] He built a boat in 1789, which he fitted with paddle-wheels and a crank, which was turned by hand, and, by trial, satisfied himself that the system would work satisfactorily.

[73] "Nathan Read and the Steam-Engine."

He then applied for his patent, and spent the greater part of the winter of 1789-'90 in New York, where Congress then met, endeavoring to secure it. In January, 1791, Read withdrew his petitions for patents, proposing to incorporate accounts of new devices, and renewed them a few months later. His patents were finally issued, dated August 26, 1791. John Fitch, James Rumsey, and John Stevens, also, all received patents at the same date, for various methods of applying steam to the propulsion of vessels.

Read appears to have never succeeded in even experimentally

making his plans successful. He deserves credit for his early and intelligent perception of the importance of the subject, and for the ingenuity of his devices. As the inventor of the vertical multi-tubular fire-box boiler, he has also entitled himself to great distinction. This boiler is now in very general use, and is a standard form.

In 1792, Elijah Ormsbee, a Rhode Island mechanic, assisted pecuniarily by David Wilkinson, built a small steamboat at Winsor's Cove, Narragansett Bay, and made a successful trial-trip on the Seekonk River. Ormsbee used an "atmospheric engine" and "duck's-foot" paddles. His boat attained a speed of from three to four miles an hour.

In Great Britain, Lord Dundas and William Symmington, the former as the purveyor of funds and the latter as engineer, followed by Henry Bell, were the first to make the introduction of the steam-engine for the propulsion of ships so completely successful that no interruption subsequently took place in the growth of the new system of water-transportation.

Thomas, Lord Dundas, of Kerse, had taken great interest in the experiments of Miller, and had hoped to be able to apply the new motor on the Forth and Clyde Canal, in which he held a large interest. After the failure of the earlier experiments, he did not forget the matter; but subsequently, meeting with Symmington, who had been Miller's constructing engineer, he engaged him to continue the experiments, and furnished all required capital, about L7,000. This was ten years after Miller had abandoned his scheme.

Symmington commenced work in 1801. The first boat built for Lord Dundas, which has been claimed to have been the "first practical steamboat," was finished ready for trial early in 1802. The vessel was called the "Charlotte Dundas," in honor of a daughter of Lord Dundas, who became Lady Milton.

[Illustration: FIG. 75.--The "Charlotte Dundas," 1801.]

The vessel (Fig. 75) was driven by a Watt double-acting engine, turning a crank on the paddle-wheel shaft. The sectional sketch below exhibits the arrangement of the machinery. _A_ is the steam-cylinder, driving, by means of the connecting-rod, _B C_, a stern-wheel, _E E_. _F_ is the boiler, and _G_ the tall smoke-pipe. An air-pump and condenser, _H_, is seen under the steam-cylinder.


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