Steamboats of 1800's


In 1769, the Scotsman James Watt patented an improved version of the steam engine that ushered in the Industrial Revolution. The idea of using steam power to propel boats occurred to inventors soon after the potential of Watt's new engine became known.The era of the steamboat began in America in 1787 when John Fitch made the first successful trial of a forty-five-foot steamboat on the Delaware River on August 22, 1787, in the presence of members of the Constitutional Convention. Fitch later built a larger vessel that carried passengers and freight between Philadelphia and Burlington, New Jersey.John Fitch was granted his first United States patent for a steamboat on August 26, 1791. However, he was granted his patent only after a battle with James Rumsey over claims to the same invention. Both men had similar designs.

Advantages and Disadvantages


  • It allowed fast travel of goods and passengers.
  • Faster way of traveling.


  • steamboat is that the steam engine would accumulate too much pressure and explode
  • Sometimes it would sink due to the wood.

Important to settling to the west

Steamboats quickly became a symbol of the West. As such, westerners continuously sought to improve and decorate the boats. In competition for passengers, they began to offer luxurious cabins and built ornate lounges on board. The elegance of these steamboats served as a reassurance to westerners that they were not the primitive backwoods hicks painted by the eastern press. However, most steamboat passengers did not have access to this elegance.
The Steamboat - History Key Assignment - February 2014