Engineer and Inventor
Born in New York City in 1749, Stevens studied at King's College (now Columbia). Graduating in 1768, he served as treasurer of New Jersey during the War of Independence, and later (1782-83) was the states surveyor general.
He turned then from an earlier interest in law and politics to the study of steam navigation, then in an experimental stage. Soon after designing some boilers and engines, he petitioned Congress on the need for a patent law; and this resulted in the first U.S. patent laws of 1790.
A man of some wealth, Stevens built the Phoenix (1806-8), which cruised from New York to Philadelphia in 1809. This was the first successful seagoing trip made by a steamboat.
After 1810, he turned his attention to the use of steam locomotion in land transportation. In 1815 he received from New Jersey the first railroad charter in the United States; and in 1826, he built a track for a pioneer locomotive. However, it was not until 1830, when he was more than eighty
years old, that he succeeded in forming the Camden & Amboy Railroad and Transportation Company. John Stevens died eight years later in Hoboken New Jersey, on March 6, 1838.