ABOUT STEAMBOAT
BUILDING IN
PITTSBURGH, PA


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Some years ago a site visitor submitted photos of these pages to me.
I honestly do not know from what publication they came.
Due to computer changes over the years, and e-mail changes, I do not even know the name of the good person who submitted them.

If anybody knows where these pages were originally printed, in what publication, please let me know.


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Allegheny County's
Boat Building

pg 100

(cont. from ??) Beats me. I don't have those pages - Dave

1761, that Pittsburgh has some claim to being the place where the first germs of the idea of a steamboat originated, says the diary:

"1761, 4th mo: 4th - A young man called Wm. Ramsey has made two little boats, being squair at ye sterns, and joined together at ye sterns by a swivel, make ye two in form of one boate, but will turn around shorter than a boate of ye same length or raise with more safety in falls and in case of striking rocks; he has also made an engine that goes with wheels enclosed in a box, to be worked by one man, by sitting on ye end of ye box, and tredding on treddlers at bottom with his feet, set ye wheels agoing, which works scullers or short paddles fixed over ye; gunnels turning them round; ye under ones always laying hold in ye water, will make ye boate goe AS if two men rowed; and he can steer at ye same time by lines like plow lines."

This statement as to Ramsey obtaining his idea from Fitch is on authority of Hon. Robert Wickliffe, vol. 1, page 30, American Pioneer.

This was twenty-five years before either James Ramsey, of Berkley county, Virginia, succeeded in propelling his "flying boat" as it was called by the people, against the current of the Potomac at Shepardstown, by stram alone, at the rate of four or five miles an hour; and also twenty years before Fitch, in 1780, accidentally meeting Ramsey in Winchester, imparted to him his idea of propelling boats by steam.

There is nothing more on record of the "young man called Wm. Ramsey," but the thought naturally occurs that if he had persevered with bit idea, that Pittsburgh, was very near to being the scene of the first attempts to construct a boat to be driven with machine power.

Where or when, however, the idea of a boat propelled by machine power or by steam originated, is quite uncertain.

From a work published about forty years since in Spain, of original papers relating to the voyage of Columbus, preserved in the royal archives at Samancas, and those of the Secretary of War of Spain, in 1542, it is stated that Blasco de Garay a sea captain, exhibited to Charles V,, in the year 1543, an engine by which vessels of the largest size could be propelled, even in a calm, without oars or sails. The Emperor decided that an experiment should be made, which was successfully attempted on June 17, 1543, in the harbor of Barcelona. The experiment was on a ship of 200 tone, called the 'Trinity.' DeGarny never publicly exposed the construction of his engine, but it was observed at the time of the experiment, that it consisted of a large cauldron of boiling water, and a movable wheel attached to each side of the ship."

From this statement it would appear that DeGarny not only orignated the steam engine, but made at the same time its application in one of its most practical and beneficial forms, and at a single effort accomplished what took the light and talent of several generations to invent and bring to practical shape.

This statement, although based on the archives of Spain, and those of the Secretary of War of that Kingdom, are by some discredited, as the date is fifty-four years before the birth of the Marquise of Worcester who is given, by history, the credit of being the inventor of the steam engine. It might said in rebuttal that

pg. 101

the incident just quoted of "de Garays" experiment possibly came in some way, to the Marquis' notice, and that he proceeded, after the manner of all inventors', to improve upon it. There is, also, a fact In history as to an early steamboat that might justify the idea that both Fitch and Fulton were not entirely original in their idea of a boat propelled by machinery moved by steam, presuming even that "de Garay's exhibition in 1543 had not accidentally came to their knowledge.

A treatise was printed in London in 1737, describing a machine invented by Jonathan Hulls, for carrying vessels against wind and tide, for which George II granted a patent for fourteen years. A drawing is prefixed to the treatise showing a boat with chimney smoking, a pair of wheels rigged over each side of the stern. From the stem of the boat a tow line passes to the foremast of a two decker, which the boat thus tows. This is evidently the first idea of a steam tow boat. As this was a published treatise, and there was a patent on record, public information must have circulated of a steamboat before the experiments of Fitch or Fulton or Stevens or Livingston, and while similarity of ideas in inventions, are not infrequent, absolute originality is difficult to establish.

James Ramsey, before mentioned, October, 1774, obtained from the legislature of Virginia an Act guaranteeing him the exclusive use of his invention in navigating the waters of that State for ten years. Ramsey went to England, and through many discouragements struggled on until he had constructed a boat of one hundred tons and so far completed his machinery as to indicate a day for public exhibition. He died suddenly before the day, while beginning the delivery of a lecture at Liverpool, England. The boat was set in motion on the Thames in 1793 and a fitting tribute paid to his memory by the Congress of the United States on February 9, 1839, when it unanimously voted his son a gold medal commemorative of his father's agency in giving the world the benefit of the steamboat.

In 1780 the Marquis de Jouffrey worked a steamboat 140 feet long on the Seine,

In 1785 both Ramsey and Fitch had exhibited models to Gen'1 Washington, and on March 15, 1785, Washington, in a letter to Hugh Williamson, certifies that his doubts are satisfied, after witnessing Ramsey's experiment. Fitch made many efforts to have his invention tried. He applied to Congress and was refused, just as was nearly the fate of Morse with his telegraph. He offered his invention to the Spanish government, for the purpose of navigating the Mississippi, without better success; but at length obtained the funds for the building of a boat, and in 1788 his vessel was launched on the Delaware. Fitch used oars worked in frames. After many experiments, Fitch abandoned his invention, having satisfied himself of its practicability, being embarrassed with debt.

He died in 1799, at Bardstown, Kentucky, and was buried near the Ohio.

In 1787, after Fitch's experiment, a Mr. Symington succeeded in propelling a steamboat on the Clyde in Scotland. In 1797 John Stevens, of Hoboken, began his experiments, and succeeded in propelling boats at the rate of five or six miles an hour. In 1797 Chancellor Livingston built a boat on the Hudson, and applied to

(Cont. on pg. 102)

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