For thousands of years prior to the early 1800s maritime transportation was dependent on sailing ships. In the first few decades of the 19th century however, entrepreneurs in New York helped revolutionize the industry so that one hundred years later sailing ships were an anachronism that hardly existed, except for show.
In the latter part of the 1700s the development of the Boulton & Watt steam engine in England made it theoretically possible to power a boat. Before 1800 a number of inventors, including New Yorkers such as Nicholas Roosevelt, John Fitch, Robert R. Livingston, John Stevens III and others, experimented with boats that used such steam engines. Before Robert Fulton made his first run in the North River steamboat (later renamed Clermont) in 1807 more than a dozen steamboats had been constructed in the United States with varying degrees of success. There were difficulties in making such craft commercially viable. [Read more…] about Fulton’s Steamboat, The Black Ball Line & The Erie Canal