Posted by: Ron DuBour | May 1, 2015

American Heroes~Robert Fulton (1765 –1815)~by rldubour

Friday!!!!! time for an American Hero, today with the help of history and poetry we take a quick look at:


Robert Fulton (1765 –1815)

A son of Robert and Mary Fulton

In Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

One younger brother Abraham

Three older sisters, Mary, Liz and Isabella.


Dad sold the farm in sixty-six

Moved his family to the city.

In sixty-eight he passed away

Left five children feeling pity.


Robert moved to Philadelphia

At the age of seventeen.

To pursue his painting and

Book publishing was his dream.


Became friends with Benjamin Franklin.

And other influential people.

At twenty-one bought Mom a farm

A keen mind and very practical.


As an inventor, mechanic and engineer

Designs for canals and bridges he’d make.

Led to the famous Erie Canal

And construction in New York State.


His vision of a diving boat

With his engineering skills begun.

He designed and developed

The “Nautilus” in eighteen-hundred and one.


In eighteen-hundred and seven

Completed his work on the “Clermont.”

The first successful steamboat

Fulton’s name would be savant.


The “Clermont’s” maiden voyage

Was from New York City to Albany.

One hundred and fifty miles

On August seventeen.


The steamboat actually showed

Fulton’s genius as an engineer.

He did not invent it but made it practical

By applying his own ideas.


He studied success and failures

His mind was brilliant and keen.

Until his death from pneumonia

On February twenty-third, eighteen-fifteen.


AUTHOR NOTES: Fulton was born in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, in 1765, a son of Robert Fulton, Sr., and Mary Smith. He had three older sisters, Elizabeth, Isabella, and Mary, and would soon have a younger brother, Abraham. The family sold the farm and moved into the city of Lancaster in 1766. Fulton’s father died in 1768, leaving behind a widow with five children. He developed an interest in painting, but that was not believed to be a serious occupation by most people of that time. . At the age of 17 he left for Philadelphia, the major city in America for cultural pursuits such as painting and book publishing, and a great place for a young man with Fulton’s keen mind and wide range of interests. He found some success there as a painter of portraits and miniatures, and met some influential people such as Benjamin Franklin. By the age of 21 he was able to purchase a farm for his mother in Hopewell Township, Washington County, PA .It was here that her brother, Rev. Joseph Smith, had settled. He traveled to London in 1786, hoping to further his painting career. Benjamin West, who had come from the same area as Fulton, was in London and already famous, and Fulton had recommendations from Franklin as well. Fulton was engaged mostly in his art, but by age 30 he had decided to pursue engineering. One of his first designs was a mill for sawing marble which, in 1794, won him a silver medal from London’s Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Commerce, and Manufactures. His next few years were largely spent studying the design and construction of canals, particularly the problem of eliminating locks. By 1797, when he went to France, he was mostly concentrating on a life as an inventor, mechanic, and an engineer, and trying to interest the French in his canal designs. He quite successfully designed improvements for canals and bridges, and it was partly his ideas and political statesmanship that eventually led to the building of the famous and important Erie Canal in New York State. His engineering skills were demonstrated with his invention and development of submarine warfare, which he did with his diving boat Nautilus in 1801. His work on the steamboat was begun in earnest in Europe, but he returned to America to continue his work. In 1807, work was completed on the Clermont. This was the first steamboat that was actually able to be called a success, and the culmination of many years of work. Its maiden voyage was on August 17 from New York City to Albany, a distance of 150 miles completed in 32 hours. It was later put into scheduled use between the cities. He also designed the first steam-propelled warship in 1814, and remained active in furthering the use of steamboats until his death from pneumonia on February 23, 1815.

Robert Fulton is known as the inventor of the steam boat. But in fact, he did not invent it. Fulton became famous, rather, because he made a success of the steam boat by making it practical. The steam boat actually showed Fulton’s genius as an engineer, not an inventor. Steam boats had been built in the early 1700’s, and John Fitch even operated one that he built on a regular basis in 1790 in Philadelphia. Fulton’s steam boat did not use new things, but rather he changed the proportions, arrangements, and velocities of already proposed ideas. He didn’t invent the process, but by studying the successes and failures of others, he made it work

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