Fulton, Robert, 1765-1815

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Civil engineer, artist, and inventor.

From the description of Letter : New York, to Edward P. Livingston, Clermont, [N.Y.], 1814 February 11. (New York State Library). WorldCat record id: 50631960

Inventor, engineer, and artist.

From the description of Papers, 1812-1815. (New York State Library). WorldCat record id: 50799372

Inventor.

From the description of Robert Fulton papers, 1809-1838. (Columbia University In the City of New York). WorldCat record id: 495526614

Steamboat entrepreneur and inventor, working with Robert R. Livingston, of New York, statesman and supporter of Fulton's work with steamboats.

From the description of Account book, 1809-1814. (New York University, Group Batchload). WorldCat record id: 58664381

Robert Fulton was an artist, civil engineer and inventor of the paddle wheel boat. He resided in Pittsburgh between 1807 and 1811 and built his first steamboat "New Orleans" in Pittsburgh.

From the description of Robert Fulton papers 1792-1805. (Historical Society of W Pennsylvania). WorldCat record id: 43762119

Artist, engineer, and inventor.

From the description of Robert Fulton papers, 1798-1814. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 166317903

Civil engineer, inventor, artist.

From the description of Letter, 1812 January 20. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 122611430

From the description of Letter, 1813 February 23. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 122458934

Steamboat entrepreneur and inventor.

From the description of Descriptions for improvements of steamboats, 1816 Jan. 24. (New York University, Group Batchload). WorldCat record id: 58664384

From the description of Papers, 1797-1850 (bulk 1797-1816). (New York University, Group Batchload). WorldCat record id: 58664097

Fulton was an inventor, engineer, and artist best known for designing the first commercially-successful steam engine.

From the description of Letters and documents : of Robert Fulton, 1807-1829. (The Mariners' Museum Library). WorldCat record id: 30470553

Inventor and promoter of the steamboat.

From the description of Papers, 1806-1965, 1806-1820 (bulk) (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 155493175

Artist, civil engineer, inventor.

From the description of Letter, 1813, April 21, New York City, to Allan McLane. (New-York Historical Society Library). WorldCat record id: 476437843

Robert Fulton (1765-1815) was an American inventor, civil engineer and artist.

Although he did well as a landscape and portrait painter in Philadelphia, he became interested in canal engineering while in England and France. His inventions included submarine torpedoes and the Nautilus (a "diving boat"). He returned to the U.S. and with the support of Robert R. Livingston designed and built various types of steamboats, notably the Clermont, the first American steamboat to be commercially successful.

From the description of Robert Fulton papers, 1790-1813. (New York Public Library). WorldCat record id: 122571180

Robert Fulton was born in Little Britain, Pennsylvania in 1765. Fulton's father, a farmer and Presbyterian preacher, died in 1768 leaving little behind for his family. At an early age Fulton displayed precocious talents in the arts and an understanding of mechanics. As a teenager Fulton moved to Philadelphia to pursue a career as a portrait artist. Fulton was successful in this venture, able to support his family back in Little Britain. With a letter of introduction from Benjamin Franklin, Fulton left for London in 1786 to meet Benjamin West, whose father, incidentally, was an acquaintance of Fulton's father. Fulton spent the next seven years living with and studying painting under West.

Fulton abandoned his artistic career in 1793 having become determined to pursue a career as an engineer and designer of canals. Fulton became acquainted with the third earl of Stanhope, Charles Mahon, who shared a similar enthusiasm in the applied sciences and the improvement of the English canal network. Fulton helped in the design and building of several canals in England, publishing Report on the Proposed Canal Between the Rivers Heyl and Helford in 1796 and Treatise on the Improvement of Canal Navigation in 1797. In addition to his work on canals Fulton took out patents for improvements in marble cutting and flax spinning during his time in England.

In 1797, Fulton moved to Paris where he resided with the family of American diplomat Joel Barlow. Initially Fulton set out to continue his work as a designer of Canals, republishing his treatise in French. Using Barlow's connection to Napoleon, Fulton soon found himself designing his "Nautilus", a boat that was able to plunge beneath the water and fasten a torpedo to an enemy ship's hull for the French. Fulton would successfully demonstrate the destructive power of his Nautilus, twice, and gain the support of Napoleon's scientific commissioners. Bonaparte, against the advise of his scientific commission, ultimately came to the conclusion that Fulton was a charlatan and extortionist due to his lack of formal scientific education and unwillingness to disclose drawings of his boats mechanisms; ceasing communication with him. Beginning in 1802 Fulton was secretly induced to move back to England by the 2nd earl of Liverpool, Robert Banks Jenkinson, England's Secretary of Foreign Affairs. In 1804 Fulton secretly moved back to England and began negotiations with the British government on a contract to develop his system of submarine and torpedo warfare. Fulton successfully demonstrated his submarine by destroying a ship in test circumstance for the British, but failed in attacking a French ship at Boulogne with a torpedo. The Superiority of the British naval fleet was secured shortly thereafter with the destruction of both the French and Spanish fleets at the Battle of Trafalgar through traditional means. By early 2006 the British had determined they did not need Fulton's designs. Now spurned by both the French and British the engineer prepared for his return to America.

Fulton's militaristic inventions were not the work of a mercenary; rather, Fulton believed his inventions were to be used in freeing man from the constraints of oppressive and militaristic nations. In an unpublished manuscript on free trade, Fulton wrote I turned my whole attention to find out means of destroying such engines of oppression, by some method which would put it out of the power of any nation to maintain such a system, and would compel every government to adopt the simple principles of education, industry, and free circulation of its produce.

Now residing in New York City Fulton revisited his ideas of using steam engines to propel boats in 1806. As early as 1793 Fulton began working on the basic principles of applying steam engines to marine vessels, which he would successfully demonstrate upon his return to America. In 1801 Fulton and American diplomat Robert R. Livingston, had undertaken experiments in using steam power propel a vessel on the river Seine in Paris, with modest results. In 1807, under the patronage of Livingston, Fulton launched his first steam-powered vessel, the Clermont, into the East River. The ship made a successful initial voyage from New York City to Albany. Livingston and Fulton quickly began commercial trips of the Clermont and several other steamboats built under their direction for both up-river navigation and crossings along the Hudson.

Through their patents Fulton and Livingston soon had a monopoly on the commercial use of steam navigation. After Livingston's death in 1813, Fulton found himself embroiled in a series of disputes with both the operators of his steamships (Edward P. Livingston, Benjamin Henry Latrobe) and those trying to break his steamship monopoly (Nathaniel Cutting, Ferdinand Fairfax and William Thornton). In 1814 Fulton was contracted by the American government to build a steam-powered vessel of war, Fulton I. Fulton died in February 1815 after a brief illness brought on by exposure; he had become soaked while helping his attorney Thomas Addis Emmet from the icy waters of the Hudson River. Fulton had traveled to Jersey City with Emmet and Cadwallader Colden to view the progress of the construction of the Fulton I.

Sources The Life and Work of Robert Fulton / Cadwallader Colden Robert Fulton and the "Clermont" / Alice Sutcliffe Crary Robert Fulton: A Biography / Cynthia Owen Philip Robert Fulton and the Submarine / William Barclay Parsons

From the guide to the Robert Fulton collection, 1767-1816, bulk 1804-1810, (The New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division.)

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referencedIn John Trumbull papers, 1750-1961 Yale University. Department of Manuscripts and Archives
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referencedIn William Short Papers, 1778-1853 Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
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referencedIn Charles Willson Peale letterbooks, 1767-1827, 1767-1827 American Philosophical Society
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referencedIn Peale-Sellers Family Collection, 1686-1963, 1686-1963 American Philosophical Society
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referencedIn Miscellaneous Manuscripts Collection, 1668-1983, Bulk, 1750-1850, 1668-1983 American Philosophical Society
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creatorOf Robert Fulton collection, 1767-1816, bulk 1804-1810 New York Public Library. Manuscripts and Archives Division
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Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Agassiz, Louis, 1807-1873 person
associatedWith American Philosophical Society. corporateBody
associatedWith Banks, Joseph, Sir, 1743-1820 person
associatedWith Barlow, Joel, 1754-1812. person
associatedWith Barnes, John S. (John Sanford), 1836-1911 person
associatedWith Batchelder, John Davis, 1872-1958, person
associatedWith Brown, J. Crosby (James Crosby), 1929-1990. person
associatedWith Burd, James, 1726-1793 person
associatedWith Burr, Aaron, 1756-1836. person
associatedWith Car of Neptune (Steamboat) corporateBody
associatedWith Clermont (Ship) corporateBody
associatedWith Cohen, William Wolfe, 1874-1940, person
associatedWith Conarroe, George M. (George Mecum), d. 1896, person
associatedWith Cooke, David. person
associatedWith Coolidge, John, T. person
associatedWith Cooper, Thomas, 1759-1839 person
associatedWith Coues, Elliott, 1842-1899 person
associatedWith Cuvier, Georges, Baron, 1769-1832 person
associatedWith Darlington, William, 1782-1863 person
associatedWith Decatur, Stephen, 1779-1820. person
associatedWith Dibner, Bern, person
associatedWith Dick, Alexander, fl. 1806-1809. person
associatedWith Duane, William, 1760-1835. person
associatedWith Edison, Thomas A., (Thomas Alva), 1847-1931 person
associatedWith Edwards, Walter. person
associatedWith Einstein, Albert, 1879-1955 person
associatedWith Everett, Edward, 1794-1865 person
associatedWith Field, William B. Osgood, collector. person
associatedWith Fitch, John person
correspondedWith Fitch, John, 1743-1798. person
associatedWith France, Anatole, 1844-1924. person
associatedWith Genth, F. A., (Frederick Augustus), 1820-1893 person
associatedWith Gilpin, Joshua, 1765-1841. person
associatedWith Goeble, Margaret. person
associatedWith Gray, Asa, 1810-1888 person
associatedWith Greeley, Horace, 1811-1872 person
associatedWith Grew, Edward W., Mrs., person
associatedWith Grew, Edward W., Mrs., collector. person
associatedWith Hamilton, Alexander, 1757-1804. person
associatedWith Harding, Warren G. person
associatedWith Hare, Jay V. person
associatedWith Hart, Charles Henry, 1847-1918, person
associatedWith Hawes, Albert Gallitin, 1804-1849. person
correspondedWith Henry, Joseph, 1797-1878 person
associatedWith Heverly, Paul Moore. person
associatedWith Hudson-Fulton Celebration Commission. corporateBody
associatedWith Hudson, Henry. person
associatedWith Hudson River Steam Boat Company. corporateBody
associatedWith Jefferson, Thomas, 1743-1826. person
associatedWith Johnson, Alba B. (Alba Boardman), 1858-1935, collector. person
associatedWith Literary and Philosophical Society of New-York (New York, N.Y.) corporateBody
associatedWith Livingston, Edward P. (Edward Philip), 1779-1843. person
associatedWith Livingston, John R. person
associatedWith Livingston, Robert L., 1775-1843. person
associatedWith Livingston, Robert R., 1746-1813. person
associatedWith Madison, James, 1751-1836. person
associatedWith Masclet, Joseph, 1760-1820. person
associatedWith Masclet, Joseph, 1760-1833. person
associatedWith McCormick, Cyrus Hall, 1859-1936, person
associatedWith McGowan, James, fl. 1811-1826. person
associatedWith McLane, Allan, 1746-1829. person
associatedWith Meriwether, David, 1800-1892. person
associatedWith Mifflin, Thomas, 1744-1800. person
associatedWith Mississippi Steam Boat Navigation Company. corporateBody
associatedWith Monroe, James, 1758-1831. person
associatedWith Monroe, Peter Jay, person
associatedWith Morris, David. person
associatedWith Morris, Gouverneur, 1752-1816. person
associatedWith Naval History Society corporateBody
associatedWith Nepean, Evan, 1751-1822. person
associatedWith Newcomb, Simon person
associatedWith Newton, Isaac, Sir, 1642-1727 person
associatedWith New-York Coal Company. corporateBody
associatedWith New York (N.Y.). New York Historical Society. Hudson-Fulton Commission. corporateBody
associatedWith New York (State). Canal Commissioners. corporateBody
associatedWith New York (State). Hudson-Fulton-Champlain Quadricentennial Commission. corporateBody
associatedWith North River Steam Boat Company (Albany, N.Y.) corporateBody
associatedWith Ogden, Aaron, 1756-1839. person
associatedWith Ohio Steam Boat Navigation Company. corporateBody
associatedWith Paragon (Steamboat) corporateBody
associatedWith Peale, Charles Willson, 1741-1827. person
associatedWith Peale-Sellers families. family
associatedWith Peale-Sellers families. person
associatedWith Peale, Titian Ramsay, 1799-1885, person
associatedWith Pike, James. person
associatedWith Pitt, William, 1759-1806. person
associatedWith Poinsett, Joel Roberts, 1779-1851 person
associatedWith Putnam County Historical Society (N.Y.) corporateBody
associatedWith Quincy, Abraham Howard, 1767-1840. person
associatedWith Riddle, William. person
associatedWith Rittenhouse, David, 1732-1796 person
associatedWith Robert Fulton (Ship) corporateBody
associatedWith Roberts, Howard, 1843-1900. person
associatedWith Roosevelt, Henry L. person
associatedWith Roosevelt, Nicholas J., 1767-1854. person
associatedWith Royal Society (Great Britain) corporateBody
associatedWith Rumseyan Society. corporateBody
associatedWith Rumseyan Society. corporateBody
associatedWith Rush, Benjamin, 1746-1813 person
associatedWith Russell, Jonathan, 1771-1832. person
associatedWith Sale, Kirkpatrick. person
associatedWith Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe, 1793-1864 person
associatedWith Seybert, Adam, 1773-1825 person
correspondedWith Short, William, 1759-1849. person
associatedWith Smith, Robert, 1757-1842, person
associatedWith Snowdon, Charles, person
associatedWith Sparks, Jared, 1789-1866 person
associatedWith Stephens, John. person
associatedWith Stevens family. family
associatedWith Stevens family. family
correspondedWith Stevens family. family
associatedWith Stevens, Henry person
associatedWith Stikeman & Co, corporateBody
associatedWith Strong, George W. (George Washington), 1783-1855. person
associatedWith Sully, Thomas, 1783-1872 person
associatedWith Sutcliffe, Andrea J. person
associatedWith Swartwout, Samuel, 1783-1856. person
correspondedWith Swift, Daniel D. person
associatedWith Thomson, Charles, 1729-1824 person
associatedWith Thornton, William, 1759-1828. person
associatedWith Troup, Robert, person
associatedWith Trumbull, John, 1756-1843. person
associatedWith Trumbull, John M., 1787-1853 person
associatedWith United States. District Court (New York : Southern District). corporateBody
associatedWith United States. Navy Dept. corporateBody
associatedWith Various. person
associatedWith Vaughan, John, 1756-1841 person
associatedWith Virginia. General Assembly. corporateBody
associatedWith Waterton, Charles, 1782-1865 person
associatedWith Wayne, Anthony person
associatedWith West, Bemjamin, 1738-1820. person
associatedWith West, Benjamin, 1738-1820. person
associatedWith Whitney, Eli, 1765-1825. person
associatedWith Wolcott, Oliver, 1760-1833. person
associatedWith Wright family. family
associatedWith Yale University. Library. corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
Virginia
James River (Va.)
Pennsylvania--Pittsburgh
United States
United States
United States
United States
Pennsylvania
New York (State)
United States
Mississippi River
Pennsylvania
New York (State)
United States
New York (State)
United States
United States
Pennsylvania--Lancaster County
New York (State)--New York
United States
Subject
Steam-navigation
Paddle steamers
Free trade
Commemorative postage stamps
Steamboats--Design and construction--19th century
Canals
Steamboats--19th century--Illustrations
Inland water transportation
Real property
Artists
Souvenirs (keepsakes)
Inventors, American--19th century
Canals--Steam-navigation
Steam-engineering
Inventions
Patent law and legislation
Shipbuilding industry
presidents
Steamboats
Inventors
Coal
Submarines (ships)
Lawyers
Inventors, American--19th century--Correspondence
Shipbuilding--19th century
Torpedoes
Shipbuilding
Steamboats--Design and construction
Ferries
Ships--Maintenance and repair
Patents
Occupation
Inventors
Artists
Engineers
Function

Person

Birth 1765-11-14

Death 1815-02-24

Britons

English

Information

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