Ohio History Journal

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
  • 11
  • 12



Click on image to view full size




In the closing year of this century of wonders, it is fitting

that we should give a thought to the memory of the inventors

and investigators to whom the world owes so vast a debt. Fore--

most among them must stand the names of the men who first

utilized the tremendous forces of steam and electricity.

For generations every schoolboy has been taught that Robert

Fulton was the inventor of the steamboat. That honor rightfully

belongs to another from whom he received the ideas, which, by

means of influential friends, he was afterwards able to develop.

The heading of the map illustrating this paper,* published by

John Hutchings of New York, in 1846, reads as follows:

"The world is indebted to the original idea and mechanical

genius of John Fitch of East Windsor, Conn., and the persever-

ance and indefatigable attention of Robert Fulton, Esq., for the

use of steam, and to the wealth, and exalted and estimable char-

acter of Robert D. Livingston, Esq., Chancellor of the State of

New York, and American Minister to France."

Twenty-one years before the whistle of Fulton's steamboat,

the "Clermont", startled the echoes among the hills which guard

the Hudson, John Fitch had made a more successful experiment

upon the waters of the Delaware river, upon which he propelled

three steamboats of his own invention, from 1786 to 1789.

In the summer of 1849, when the 'cholera scare" almost de-

populated the city of Columbus, Ohio, a family of children were

sent to the adjoining town of Worthington, to spend the summer

with their grandfather, Colonel James Kilbourne, who kept a

hotel there, and was one of the early and honored settlers of the

town. One rainy day, the boys in exploring the garret, came

across a strange object bearing resemblance to a steamboat.

It was three feet in length, having the solid wheels and upright

cylinder of steam conveyances of the present day. The working

* This map is now in the possession of I. N. Whiting, of Columbus