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Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 43


This is the grave of Robert Fulton.

2016-05-28 13.55.53

Fulton, the creator of the first commercially successful steamship, was born in Pennsylvania, managed to make friends with prominent people, and went to Europe at the age of 23, soon after the end of the American Revolution. He continued to make interesting friends there, including the socialist Robert Owen, who funded one of Fulton’s early schemes. Fulton was highly interested in transportation technology from a young man. He understood projects on everything from canals to submarines and worked on some of the first modern sea mines for the British in their fight against Napoleon’s France, although he also took contracts for France as well. I guess Livingston was the definition of the American version of “neutral rights” during the Napoleonic Wars. He created early steamships while in Europe

Fulton returned to the U.S. in 1806 and married into the powerful Livingston family. Fulton pioneered the Clermont the next year, the first passenger steamship, which carried passengers from New York to Albany up the Hudson River. He did not in fact invent the steamship nor did he create the first steamship in the United States, which had happened in the 1780s. What Fulton did do was make the steamship a viable commercial operation useful for overcoming the transportation difficulties of the young United States. He continued working on steamboat and canal technology but died in 1815 from tuberculosis and pneumonia.

Robert Fulton is buried in the Trinity Church Cemetery, New York City.

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