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ISBN:0786268948
Author: Andrea Sutcliffe
ISBN13: 978-0786268948
Title: Steam: The Untold Story Of America's First Great Invention
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ePUB size: 1436 kb
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Language: English
Category: Transportation
Publisher: Thorndike Press; 1 edition (September 20, 2004)
Pages: 541

Steam: The Untold Story Of America's First Great Invention by Andrea Sutcliffe



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Sutcliffe really does tell a compelling story about "America's first great invention" which, to the best of my knowledge, has not been adequately told until now. Most of us learned early in life that Robert Fulton invented the first steam-powered boat, just as we were also told in school that Thomas Edison invented almost everything else, including the light bulb. In fact, James Rumsey and John Fitch competed strenuously to be the first to launch a steam-powered boat.

Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read. Start by marking Steam: The Untold Story of America's First Great Invention as Want to Read: Want to Read savin. ant to Read. Originally from San Antonio, Andrea Sutcliffe has a journalism degree from the University of Texas at Austin. In 1996, Andrea Sutcliffe moved to Virginias Shenandoah Valley to devote herself full-time to Originally from San Antonio, Andrea Sutcliffe has a journalism degree from the University of Texas at Austin.

However, the true first passenger steamboat in America, and the world, was built from scratch, and plied the Delaware River in 1790, almost two decades earlier. Its inventor, John Fitch, never attained Fulton's riches, and was rewarded with ridicule and poverty.

Instead, John Fitch is awarded the title of first inventor, with Virginia's James Rumsey close behind in second place. The early steamboat, appearing in various forms from the 1780s through the eve of the War of 1812, is the real focus of this story. Along the way, Sutcliffe also includes several historical discursions that involve the appearance of such notable luminaries as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.

despite the fact that, the genuine first passenger steamboat in the USA, and the realm, used to be equipped from scratch, and plied the Delaware River in 1790, nearly twenty years previous. it's the tale at the back of America's first very important enterprise in expertise, the persevering and colourful males that made it ensue, and the good invention that moved a brand. Read or Download Steam: The Untold Story of America's First Great Invention PDF.

New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004. The story Sutcliffe seeks to tell begins with the rivalry between John Rumsey and John Fitch, two quasi-engineers of the 1780s who were interested in finding a way to drive boats against the currents of America's major rivers. Here is where the book does not succeed as history. But Sutcliffe, who works as a writer more than a scholar, does not place their behavior in any sensible interpretive context. Details abound, but they contribute to no real argument.

It is the story behind America's first important venture in technology, the persevering and colorful men that made it happen, and the great invention that moved a new nation westward. Connect with the author.

In 1807, Robert Fulton, using an English mail-order steam engine, chugged four miles an hour up the Hudson River and into American folklore as the inventor of the steamboat. However, the true first passenger steamboat in America, and the world, was built from scratch by John Fitch and plied the Delaware River almost two decades earlier. Steam tells the two-decade saga of America's first important venture in technology, a fascinating tale whose cast of characters includes George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin.
Reviews: 4
Rageseeker
"Steam" captures the intrigue of the chase for steam-powered transportation. And there was no shortage of intrigue and industrial espionage when it came to building the first American steamboat. Ms. Sutcliffe also develops the novelty of steam power in the 18th century and what a radical departure the steam engine was compared to water power.
The story of the steam engine also involves politics. Inventors sought patents in order to make claims for navigation monopolies. The inventors knew that inventing a steam boat would not make them rich. However, a monopoly to operate a steamboat on a particular river would be their path to wealth. (The story of Robert Fulton.)
Ms. Sutcliffe takes care to present a balanced storyline. In most histories of the steamboat, the authors tended to be partial to a particular inventor. This is not the case with this work.
"Steam" is an American story, but it also is a global story with James Watt's steam engine setting the standard for the era. America had to invent a steam engine because Great Britain guarded the technology and export licenses of the Watt engine.
I found it quite remarkable that inventors James Rumsey and John Fitch built operational steamboats with almost no information to go on. And certainly, they had no working model (like Watt's engine) to copy. These boats were built a full decade before Eli Whitney introduced the concept of machined, interchangeable parts.
Ms. Sutcliffe has done her readers a favor by presenting her work as a chapter of American history rather than as a technology primer. The age of steam in America begins just after the end of the Revolutionary War. We find a fledgling American nation still joined at the hip with Great Britain. And we see the battle between states and the federal government for power to issue patents and navigation franchises.
The story of the steamboat makes for a good barometer of the first four decades of American history.
Marinara
Sutcliffe really does tell a compelling story about "America's first great invention" which, to the best of my knowledge, has not been adequately told until now. Most of us learned early in life that Robert Fulton invented the first steam-powered boat, just as we were also told in school that Thomas Edison invented almost everything else, including the light bulb. In fact, James Rumsey and John Fitch competed strenuously to be the first to launch a steam-powered boat. During the summer of 1790, Fitch launched a steamboat commuter service between Philadelphia and Trenton but was unable to make it profitable in competition with stagecoaches. It was not until almost 20 years later (1807) that Fulton's Clermont carried passengers between New York City and Albany.

The need for water transportation was obvious, hence the importance of barges but they could not proceed against the current and had to be towed back or returned over land for their next voyage. What if the power of steam could be used to solve that problem? Of course, those whose economic self-interests would be threatened by (in effect) a steam-powered barge -- notably owners and employees of stagecoach and barge companies -- did all they could to oppose efforts by Rumsey and Fitch. They delayed but could not ultimately deny what proved to be the inevitable commercial success of steam-powered boats, "America's first great invention."

Sutcliffe's writing skills are such that her presentation of historical material reads like a novel worthy of Charles Dickens in his prime. Her narrative has everything: passionate and determined antagonists, a plot filled with crisis and conflict, conspiracies, use and abuse of political influence as well as all manner of anecdotes which help to reveal the stresses, tensions, and (yes) opportunities which developed during the years immediately following the American Revolution.

Great stuff!
Nikobar
In school, we learned to say "Robert Fulton" whenever we were asked to name the inventor of the steamship. Alas, not only is that answer wrong; but a correct one cannot be summed up by just one name, one year, or one event. Andrea Sutcliffe unravels the tangled web of men, machines, failures, successes, financial backers, patents and politics involved in getting steamships chugging on American rivers during the time period of 1784 to 1811. Here we learn about people like John Fitch and James Rumsey. We discover how George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were involved in the process. We read about boiler explosions, innumerable tinkerings and improvements, and proving "who had what idea when." The newly-formed Patent Office plays a huge role in this drama. Robert Fulton doesn't even make an appearance until the last third of the book. Throughout it all, one has to wonder about the tenacity and sanity of the men who not only had to deal with the temperament of machines, but also with the skepticism of state and federal authorities. Imagine attempting to take a prototype steamboat down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers during the New Madrid earthquake of 1811! Why didn't we ever hear about these stories in school? As for Robert Fulton: "As Fulton freely admitted, he never really invented the steamboat. Rather, he built the first steamboat that really worked." (p. 180) And he comes off as a dandy and an opportunist in this book.

You might scoff and ask, "How interesting can the history of the steamboat be?" Read this book and find out. The miracle is that this invention ever came to fruition.