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A History of the Growth of the Steam-Engine

Launch of the Fulton the First


The

construction of the vessel was authorized by Congress in March, 1814; the keel was laid June 20, 1814, and the vessel was launched October 29th of the same year.

[Illustration: FIG. 82.--Launch of the "Fulton the First," 1804.]

The "Fulton the First," as she was called, was considered an enormous vessel at that time. The hull was double, 156 feet long, 56 feet wide, and 20 feet deep, measuring 2,475 tons. In the following May the ship was ready for her engine, and in July was so far completed as to steam, on a trial-trip, to the ocean at Sandy Hook and back--53 miles--in 8 hours and 20 minutes. In September of the same year, with armament and stores on board, the same route was traversed again, the vessel making 5-1/2 miles an hour. The vessel, as thus completed, had a double hull, each about 20 feet longer than the Clermont, and separated by a space 15 feet across. Her engine, having a steam-cylinder 48 inches in diameter and of 5 feet stroke of piston, was furnished with steam by a copper boiler 22 feet long, 12 feet wide, and 8 feet high, and turned a wheel between the two hulls which was 16 feet in diameter, and carried "floats" or "buckets" 14 feet long, and with a dip of 4 feet. The engine was in one of the two hulls, and the boiler in the other. The sides, at the gun-deck, were 4 feet 10 inches thick, and her spar-deck was surrounded by heavy musket-proof bulwarks. The armament consisted of 30 32-pounders,

which were intended to discharge red-hot shot. There was one heavy mast for each hull, fitted with large latteen sails. Each end of each hull was fitted with a rudder. Large pumps were carried, which were intended to throw heavy streams of water upon the decks of the enemy, with a view to disabling the foe by wetting his ordnance and ammunition. A submarine gun was to have been carried at each bow, to discharge shot weighing 100 pounds, at a depth of 10 feet below the water-line.

This was the first application of the steam-engine to naval purposes, and, for the time, it was an exceedingly creditable one. Fulton, however, did not live to see the ship completed. He was engaged in a contest with Livingston, who was then endeavoring to obtain permission from the State of New Jersey to operate a line of steamboats in the waters of the Hudson River and New York Bay, and, while returning from attending a session of the Legislature at Trenton, in January, 1815, was exposed to the weather on the bay at a time when he was ill prepared to withstand it. He was taken ill, and died February 24th of that year. His death was mourned as a national calamity.

From the above brief sketch of this distinguished man and his work, it is seen that, although Robert Fulton is not entitled to distinction as an inventor, he was one of the ablest, most persistent, and most successful of those who have done so much for the world by the introduction of the inventions of others. He was an intelligent engineer and an enterprising business-man, whose skill, acuteness, and energy have given the world the fruits of the inventive genius of all who preceded him, and have thus justly earned for him a fame that can never be lost.

Fulton had some active and enterprising rivals.

Oliver Evans had, in 1801 or 1802, sent one of his engines, of about 150 horse-power, to New Orleans, for the purpose of using it to propel a vessel owned by Messrs. McKeever and Valcourt, which was there awaiting it. The engine was actually set up in the boat, but at a low stage of the river, and no trial could be made until the river should again rise, some months later. Having no funds to carry them through so long a period, Evans's agents were induced to remove the engine again, and to set it up in a saw-mill, where it created great astonishment by its extraordinary performance in sawing lumber.


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