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A History of the Growth of the Steam-Engine

Fulton met Robert Livingston Chancellor Livingston


When

about leaving the country, Fulton met Robert Livingston (Chancellor Livingston, as he is often called), who was then (1801) Embassador of the United States at the court of France. Together they discussed the project of applying steam to navigation, and determined to attempt the construction of a steamboat on the Seine; and in the early spring of the year 1802, Fulton having attended Mrs. Barlow to Plombieres, where she had been sent by her physician, he there made drawings and models, which were sent or described to Livingston. In the following winter Fulton completed a model side-wheel boat.

[Illustration: FIG. 77.--Fulton's Experiments.]

January 24, 1803, he delivered this model to MM. Molar, Bordel, and Montgolfier, with a descriptive memoir, in which he stated that he had, by experiment, proven that side-wheels were better than the "chaplet" (paddle-floats set on an endless chain).[78] These gentlemen were then building for Fulton and Livingston their first boat, on L'Isle des Cygnes, in the Seine. In planning this boat, Fulton had devised many different methods of applying steam to its propulsion, and had made some experiments to determine the resistance of fluids. He therefore had been able to calculate, more accurately than had any earlier inventor, the relative size and proportions of boat and machinery.

[78] A French inventor, a watchmaker of Trevoux, named Desblancs,

had already deposited at the Conservatoire a model fitted with "chaplets."

[Illustration: FIG. 78.--Fulton's Table of Resistances.]

The author has examined a large collection of Fulton's drawings, among which are sketches, very neatly executed, of many of these plans, including the chaplet, side-wheel, and stern-wheel boats, driven by various forms of steam-engine, some working direct, and some geared to the paddle-wheel shaft. Figs. 77 and 78 are engraved from two of these sheets. The first represents the method adopted by Fulton to determine the resistance of masses of wood of various forms and proportions, when towed through water. The other is "A Table of the resistance of bodies moved through water, taken from experiments made in England by a society for improving Naval architecture, between the years 1793 and 1798" (Fig. 78). This latter is from a certified copy of "The Original Drawing on file in the Office of the Clerk of the New York District, making a part of the Demonstration of the patent granted to Robert Fulton, Esqr., on the 11th day of February, 1809. Dated this 3rd March, 1814," and is signed by Theron Rudd, Clerk of the New York District. Resistances are given in pounds per square foot.

Guided by these experiments and calculations, therefore, Fulton directed the construction of his vessel. It was completed in the spring of 1803. But, unfortunately, the hull of the little vessel was too weak for its heavy machinery, and it broke in two and sank to the bottom of the Seine. Undiscouraged, Fulton at once set about repairing damages. He was compelled to direct the rebuilding of the hull. The machinery was little injured. In June, 1803, the reconstruction was completed, and the vessel was set afloat in July. The hull was 66 feet long, of 8 feet beam, and of light draught.


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