Robert Fulton Sails on The Clermont
Robert Fulton developed a steam power ship to sail on the Hudson River. On August 17th Fulton's steamboat set sail from New York City, arriving in Albany 32.5 hours later. 'Fulton's new boat and the steamboats that followed changed the face of America.
From the moment the steam engine was invented its potential to power ships was clear. The challenge was how to transfer the energy created by the steam engine to power a boat. After several failed designs, William Symington, a Scottish inventor, solved that problem by designing the paddle wheel. Symington's application was to move boats on canals. The steam engine could not compete with mules moving the ships for that purpose. However, American inventor, Robert Fulton took Symington's ideas and applied them to building a boat that could travel on the Hudson River. Robert Livingston financed Fulton's work. Livingston had convinced the New York State legislature to grant him a monopoly on steam travel in New York if he could provide a boat that could travel from New York to Albany at the average speed of 4 MPH. Fulton built a ship, in New York, which became known as the Clermont. Fulton made use of an imported steam engine from the Watt steam plant in England. The boat was 146 feet long, and 12 feet wide, with a flat bottom. It had a wrought iron paddlewheel and metal boilers.
On the morning of August 17th, 1807, the Clermont left its pier in Manhattan and headed for Albany. Thirty-two and a half hours later, the Clermont arrived in Albany. The ship had traveled the one hundred and fifty-mile journey at an average speed of 4 and a half miles an hour. The world had been changed.