Ohio History Journal

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JOHN FITCH, INVENTOR OF STEAMBOATS

JOHN FITCH, INVENTOR OF STEAMBOATS.

BY MIRA CLARKE PARSONS.

By a coincidence of which the writer was not then aware,

while the article* on the "Steamboat" was in type, the name of

Robert Fulton was brought to public notice, for the purpose of

bestowing further honors upon the memory of a great inventor.

The object of this paper is to offer additional proof of the

validity of the prior claim of John Fitch, as the inventor and

originator of steam navigation. While all due regard must be

paid to Robert Fulton, it is only the part of generosity and

justice to offer tribute to the master to whom he was indebted

for the first idea of the invention which was to be productive of

greater results than their wildest dreams had ever conceived.

The first patent right of employing steam as a means of

navigation was granted John Fitch by the State of New Jersey,

in 1786, as will be seen by the following communication, re-

ceived in reply to an inquiry regarding it. The State Library of

Ohio furnishes no copies of the laws of New Jersey previous

to 1800.                TRENTON, N. J., Aug. 29, 1900.

My Dear Madame-The act granting certain rights and

privileges to John Fitch was "Passed at Trenton, March 18,

1786. The title of the act is 'An act for granting and securing

to John Fitch the sole right and advantage of making and

employing the steamboat, by him lately invented, for a limited

time.' "

The act granted to Fitch "of Bucks county, in the State of

Pennsylvania, for and during the full end and term of fourteen

years, from and after the present sessions of the legislature,"

the sole right of making and using boats "which may be urged

or impelled through the water by the force of fire or steam, in

all creeks, rivers, bays and waters whatsoever within the territory

and jurisdiction of this State." The penalty for infringement was

100 and forfeiture of "all such boat, boats or watercraft, together

with the steam engine, and all the appurtenances thereof."

Very truly yours,      HENRY C. BUCHANAN,

State Librarian.

*John Fitch, Inventor of Steamboats. Vol. VIII, page 397, Ohio

Archaeological and Historical Publications.

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