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The Pennsylvania Gazette
7th June 1807
We Americans, after having defeated our island mother of England and having won the greatest war in recorded history, must recognise that we are not the centre of the world.
I am writing this article in earnest to you, Philadelphia, that you might open your eyes to the rest of God’s bountiful earth. There have been many wonderful happenings in Europe over the past several years. Dear Americans, we have been thrust out of the war and into the revolution—the Industrial Revolution, that is. For many fortnights, French, English, even our American scientists have been at steady work in the threshold of all learning, Paris, France. I am pleased to announce my expectations—that one such scientist should discover something marvelous, something helpful to even our country, our America, whose ties to the foreign world are solely reigning in our trade.
Here in Philadelphia, we rely on the rivers of our state to transport our goods. Many civilians cannot imagine any other way of transportation besides paddling small boats down the stream. But what if there was another way? I have received word from a fellow reporter currently residing in France who writes to me of great borders being crossed; that we might finally harness the power of steam to propel our goods downriver. Breakthroughs such as these are sure to greatly affect our economy for the better.
American engineer Robert Fulton has been experimenting with steam-powered engines for quite some time now. Three years ago, he teamed up with Chancellor Robert Livingston, who acts as the bridge between the United States and France. The two men met in Paris, each deciding that the prospect of steamboats was worth looking into.
An engine for the proposed boat was obtained courtesy of the British firm ‘Bouton & Watt’, but was forbidden shipment into the U.S. Finally, after three years, exportation was granted, and the pair was finally able to begin work on their boat.
Now, the time for the unveiling of the Fulton-Livingston steamboat has arisen. The Chancellor has marine control over the Hudson River, thus that is where the much-anticipated voyage shall occur. Have heart, Philadelphia! For this event is sure to change your history forever.
14th August 1807
Today is destined to be a wonderfully eventful day. Today shall be the day in which the esteemed American team of Robert Fulton and Chancellor Livingston will set afloat their steamboat!
Calling this moment in history ‘ordinary’ would certainly be treason against the American Congress. By definition, ordinary means unexceptional. But what can be said about today that could even possibly fit into that category? Today, the boundaries of science and engineering shall be crossed. No more will the Industrial Revolution be just talk here in America—today we will live it!
With my own two eyes, I have seen the much-fantasized boat. And what a fine sight it was! A tremendous vessel, crafted locally nearby the Hudson River, had been fitted with the British engine. This engine works by propelling the boat along the water, much like any other boat…but with impressively less handwork! And yet, the engine proves to be only part of the equation, as evident if one were to look at the steamboat. Two large paddlewheels to either side of the craft aide with the job of rousing it, and also add a considerable amount of horsepower.
According to various publications in the Hudson area, the Fulton/Livingston steamboat has no recorded name. An earlier visit to the two men proved this true. However, because all inventions require a U.S. patent, the boat must have some form of a name. After contacting the United States Patent Office, I have determined the ‘name’ of Fulton’s steamboat. It was archived as the ‘North River Steamboat.’ Some Dutch citizens living around the Hudson River call it the North River, which probably prompted the name.
When the North River Steamboat ‘set sail,’ it chugged merrily along the cool river rather quickly. One woman claimed the boat had gone, “…well over twenty knots!” I chose instead to trust the opinion of an educated scholar, who guessed the boat’s approximate speed to be around 8 knots, which translates to 8 nautical miles per hour.
After quite awhile spent loitering under the shade New York’s famed willow trees by the River, I received admittance onto the boat to speak with Fulton.
The Gazette: Good morning, Mr. Fulton.
Fulton: Good day. Are you enjoying the ride?
G: Yes, I must admit I am. Do you plan on continuing with this business, going commercial?
F: Certainly, dear. But of course, we must make a few repairs at Clermont before the next trip. I’m afraid we haven’t quite gotten all of the kinks out of it.
G: I see. Was it a difficult thing to do, create such a boat?
F: Not really, no. I suppose it was bothersome at times, when we had to wait for approvals and such, but the Chancellor and I have handled everything rather well, if I may say so.
G: Do you have a name for this steamship?
F: My steamboat doesn’t need a name to be enjoyed, now does it?
G: Right, sir. Well, I’d better be going now.
F: All right. Watch you don’t trip on the way off.
And so, here ends another fantastic day for the history of America. Read the next issue of the Pennsylvanian Gazette to continue learning about the everyday advances our country is making.
24th February 1815
Dearest Philadelphians, may the inhabitants of your streets set aside a time today to mourn the death of the man who revolutionised transportation. Named Robert Fulton, he was most well known for his first steamboat, or paddleboat, whose happy trails down the Hudson River will be remembered by hundreds.
Let us not forget how we struggled to transport our goods from place to place. How might one in Boston send his wares to another in Virginia? By way of stream, of course. Handwork. At least, that was how things used to be done. Now, the world has utilized the power of steam, which can be used to propel boats downriver. Fantastic! This method, started so long ago in our struggling union by Americans William Henry and John Fitch, was carried up to the present times when the Chancellor Robert Livingston and our very own Pennsylvanian engineer, Robert Fulton, experimented with it.
The pair quite successfully tinkered with their British-borne engine and set it into a boat, where it could easily propel the ship across water. Then, after victoriously concluding the Chancellor’s water monopoly over the Hudson River, the men decided to set sail with all of the public watching.
Imagine the surprise of our marvelous city eight years ago, when she awoke to find a boat sweeping along the riverbank! Its giant wheels, seemingly ominous and frightening to some Philadelphians, were a delight and a pleasure to the others, who had no doubt heard rumors of the unveiling.
In that time, many people thought that a simple boat could change nothing. But in this time and day, we know better. For with our current advances both in the anatomy of boats and common scientific knowledge, we can travel nearly twice as fast, and heavens knows how much more efficient we’ve become. Goods from every state can be transported to virtually anywhere that has access to water, as usual—but now, we can do it much quicker, and with more ease. Isn’t that something to be proud of?
Rejoice, Philadelphia! For, even in death, Robert Fulton is a man to be praised for his accomplishments.