Moore's Patent Office and Patent Laws (1855)
Extracts from Patent Office and Patent Laws, or, A Guide to Inventors and A Book of Reference for Judges, Lawyers, Magistrates and Others, With Appendices, by J.G. Moore
Parry & McMillan, Philadelphia (1855)
In May, 1728, Samuel Higley, of Simsburg and Joseph Dewey, of Hebron, petitioned the legislative council of the colony for the exclusive right "of practicing the business or trade of steel making" for twenty years, alleging that the first-named petitioner had, "with great pains and cost, found out and obtained a curious art by which to convert, change, or transmit common iron into good steel, sufficient for any use, and was the very first that ever performed such an operation in America." Several smiths certified to the truthfulness of the claim, setting forth that they had tried the steel, and were prepared to pronounce it a good article. The legislature thereupon granted the prayer, with a proviso that "the petitioners improve the art to any good and reasonable perfection within two years from the date of this act."
This was probably the earliest manufacture of steel in America; but the process and machinery required were not at the time described. We are, therefore, without this information.
The general assembly at Hartford, at a still earlier day, took measures to encourage the development of the mineral resources of the colony. Several acts were passed by it with this view, among which were the following: "For the encouragement of such as will lay out themselves upon the discovery of mines or minerals, for the public good, It is ordered, By authority of this court, that whosoever expend their time or estate upon such discoveries, and purchases them for the country, he shall be honourably rewarded out of what he doth discover, for the same." [Col. Rec. 52, A.D. 1672] "The court, for the encouragement of any person that will lay out himself for the discovery of any mines, and minerals, etc.,, Do order, that whosoever shall make such discoveries, and purchase it for the country, he shall be honourably rewarded out of what he doth discover, as aforesaid." [Ib., II, 193, A.D. 1663]
"It is ordered that there shall be no monopolies granted or allowed amongst us, but of such new inventions as shall be judged profitable to the country, and for such time as the general court shall deem meet," [Ib., 52, 2d; to which was appended, 1715] "If any person or persons shall set themselves on work to discover any commodities that may be of use for the country, for the bringing in a supply of goods from foreign parts, that is not as yet of use among us, he that discovers it shall have due encouragement granted to him, and the adventurers therein," [Ib., 5;] vague promises of reward at best.
The closing words of a memorial on file in the colonial archives, without date, entitled "Reasons against a general prohibition of the iron manufacture in his majesty's plantations, intended by a clause in the bill now pending, entitled 'A bill for encouraging the importation of naval stores from America,'" are severely caustic: "VI. It seems a farther hardship that the subjects [of the crown] abroad should be permitted to forge their ore into bars, but not to run or cast it into pots or other implements, because the same fire, and even the same heat, will suffice for both."
Samuel Southworth, of Lyme, in the county of New London, erected a furnace in 1741. Ebenezer Keny, Joseph Hull, Jr., and John Wooster, of Derby, and Thomas Perkins, of Enfield, obtained permission of the Council to purchase a water right of the Indians, for iron works near the falls of Nangatuck river, in 1760. The legislature granted a loan of £1200 to John Patterson, Eph. Patterson, and Thomas Russel, to build a furnace on the Owesatunnck river, in 1761. A grist mill was erected in Lyme about the year 1743; and to keep it going, was deemed of as much public importance as to keep the furnace there in operation. A slitting mill, or nail factory, was authorized to be put up in Suffield in 1716. Iron works were also authorized to be put up in Salisbury in 1734, which were completed three years later. The same improvements became the subject of litigation, and continued to form a subject of legal dispute until the breaking out of the war of independence. A forge and other iron works were in operation in Colebrook for some years prior to 1780, in which latter year "they took fire, and were burned to the ground." In 1775, Nathaniel Niles, of Norwich, addressed a spirited memorial to the general court, which contains these opening words: 'That, by reason of the present unhappy controversy between Great Britain and British America, and the consequent interruption of trade, it is become of very interesting importance to these colonies that the article of iron wire, on which the woolen and cotton manufactory so greatly depend, should be manufactured in these colonies," etc. Niles built works for the purpose of making wire, and continued the trade until after the re-establishment of peace. A proposition was introduced into the legislative council in 1786, offering a premium on the manufacture of nails; but it was negatived in the upper house.
Connecticut seems to have taken the initiative in other branches of inventive talent and industry. "The memorial of Abel Parmlee, of New Haven," dated Oct. 19, 1736, and addressed to the general court, represents that he "has been at great expense, of both time and money, in order to gain the art and skill of casting large bells for the use of churches, schools, etc.," and desires that the legislature will grant him a monopoly of the trade for twenty years, which that body refuses to do. Parmlee asserts that "this, his own," is the first attempt to cast bells in the colonies.
Polishing crystals was an art discovered by Abel Buell, in 1766, who says that his "method of grinding and polishing crystals and other stones of great value, all the growth of this colony," as a discovery, will be "a great saving and advantage" to the colony, "against the importation of such stones from abroad." The same person, (who had been pardoned as a convict in the colonial prison for life,) three years after, (1769,) informed the council that he had discovered a process for casting printing type, and prayed that body for a contribution to aid him in his undertaking, (the creation of a foundry,) which was granted. That he succeeded in his enterprise, is evident from specimens of his work still preserved.
Leonardus Chester erected a pin factory, and had it in operation in 1775; and in 1783 Benjamin Hauks claimed to have invented a clock "that shall wind up itself," which appears to have been effected "by help of the air." Barnabas Deane (1786) asked the council to appropriate to him a monopoly, or "exclusive right and privilege of erecting and making use of" a steam engine, "touching the manner and method of constructing which and its use," he professed a perfect familiarity. Subsequent and prior inventions or discoveries, not mentioned, may be summed up briefly as follows: the drill plough, invented by Benoni Hilliard of Saybrook, in 1765; a pottery proposed to be erected by Samuel Dennis of New Haven in 1789; Thomas Darling (1747) obtains the exclusive right to manufacture glass in the colony for the period of twenty years; Christopher Leffingwell erects a paper-mill in Norwich in 1768, and on his products is authorized to receive a bounty; a "torpedo to destroy an enemy's shipping," was invented about the year 1775, but the name of the contriver does not transpire; "a new mode of constructing water-mills," is claimed as a new invention by David Bushnell, of Saybrook, in 1784; a tide-mill, for grinding grain, etc., is invented by John Shipman of Saybrook, in 1774; Samuel Loomis of Colchester, (1787,) announces that he "is prepared to introduce a new epoch" in the "manufacture of wood, cotton, hemp, flax, and silk, upon a new constructed plan;" James Wallace, (1776,) memorializes council on the subject of stocking making, professing to be master of his trade, "both in the silk, cotton, threat, and worsted way." "John Davis, clothier," proposes to "instruct the people in the process of woolen manufacture," 1736; Richard Rogers of New London, asks for a premium or monopoly of the trade of making "fine linen cloth," and "canvass for shipping," 1724 and 1735; John Bulkley of Colchester, in view of the general want, proposes (1753) to import from Scotland a flax dressing machine; Thomas Barrens "and 31 others" are incorporated in to a company to manufacture silk cloths, 1788; Edward Hinman had a factory "for making molasses from corn stalks" in 1717; John Prout, Jr., produced linseed oil in 1718; John Jerom and Stephen Jerom, Jr., propose to set up "evaporating pans for the making of salt," 1746; William Pitkin engages in the snuff business, 1784; and Samuel Williard and others erect a potash factory, 1741.
Special acts were passed respecting silk -- one was adopted in 1732, one in 1783, and one in 1784. The last clause of the latter is as follows: "That whoever shall make any raw silk from worms and mulberry trees of his own raising, within this state, by properly winding the same from bolls or cocoons, after the 1st day of July next, and for ten years next thereafter, shall have and receive as a bounty from the treasury of this state 2d lawful money, for each ounce of such silk, well dried, which such person or persons shall make, as aforesaid; which bounty shall be paid out of the duties arising on the importation of foreign articles into this state," etc. [May, 1784]
Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin, 1793, one of the most important discoveries of any age.
Virginia was honored with a saw-mill, driven by water, at an early day in its colonial history. The following is the title of an old pamphlet issued in 1650. "Virginia's discovery of silk worms, with their benefit, and the implanting of mulberry trees. Also, the dressing and keeping of vines, for the rich trade of making wines there. Together with the making of the saw-mill very useful in Virginia, for cutting of timber and clapboards to build withal, and its conversion to others as profitable uses. By Ed. Williams. London: 1650." What the author means by "other profitable uses" may be gathered from his
"Explication of the saw-mill, an engine wherewith, by force of a wheel in the water, to cut timber with great speed. [Spelling rationalized KWD]
"This engine is very common in Norway and mountains of Sweden, wherewith they cut great quantity of Dealboards; which engine is very necessary to be in a great Town or Forest, to cut Timber, whether into planks or otherwise. This here is not altogether like those of Norway, for they make the piece of Timber approach the saws on certain wheels with teeth; but because of reparations which these toothed wheels are often subject unto, I will omit that use, and instead thereof, put two weights about 2 or 300 pounds weight apiece, whereof one is marked A the other B. The cords wherewith the said weights do hang, to be fastened at the end of the 2 pieces of moving wood, which slide on two other pieces of fixed wood, by the means of certain small pulleys, which should be within the house; and so the said weights should always draw the said pieces of moving wood, which, advancing always toward the saws rising and falling, shall quickly be cut into 4, 5, or 6 pieces, as you shall please to put on saws, and placed at what distance you will have for the thickness of the planks or boards you will cut; and when a piece is cut, then let one with a lever turn a roller, whereto shall be fastened a strong cord, which shall bring back the said piece of wood, and left again the weights; and after, put aside the piece already cut, to take again the saws against another piece of wood. Which once done, the ingenious artist may easily convert the same to an instrument of threshing wheat, breaking of hemp or flax, and other profitable uses.
A rude engraving represents this primitive contrivance; and the "portrait" certainly shows it to have been a very different piece of mechanism from the steam mills driven by "ingenious artists" in our time. Who at that day could have conceived that in two centuries the wonderful invention of Williams would have been superseded in the manner it has, by steam sawmills, and McCormick reapers, since, until that time, the knowledge of slitting boards had not been mentioned in history, though Ausonius speaks of the "ripping of marble slabs," by means of machinery driven by contributaries of the river Moselle. The first saw-mill erected in Norway, of which we have any account, (referred to above,) was in 1530. The British Ambassador to Rome, Bishop Ely, mentions the existence of saw-mills in the Papal States in 1555; but it is known that saw-mills had been in use in Madeira as early as 1420, and at Breslau 1427.
James Rumsey, (a Marylander,) as an inventor, contributed much to the early useful arts of this state. His principal claim, that of the steamboat, will be treated under the head "Pennsylvania," "New York," and "Maryland."
In Slater's Memoir, Appen., p 446, it is stated that in 1620, "one hundred and fifty persons came out to Virginia to carry on the manufacture of silks, iron, potash, tar, pitch, glass, salt, etc., but they did not succeed."
In Hunt's Merchant's Magazine, vol. XIX, page 650, a writer attempts to show that the first regular cotton factory built in the United States, was at Byfield, Mass., in 1793. He says, "Mr. Samuel Slater had, perhaps, a small spinning establishment previous, at Pawtucket, R.I.; but the one at Byfield was the first regular factory." In the same work, vol XX, page 107, this statement is denied by another writer, who states that Mr. Slater's establishment at Pawtucket was in active operation in 1790, three years previously. And the writer adds, "Some attempts had been made prior to spin cotton by water-power, and some small machines, of rude construction, were shown Mr. Slater on his arrival at Pawtucket, on which cotton had been spun from rolls prepared by hand in families -- the improved modes of preparing the cotton for spinning on carding cylinders and roving machines, on the Arkwright plan, being entirely unknown and unattempted." In corroboration of this statement, awarding the credit to Rhode Island, over Massachusetts, of possessing the first cotton factory in the colonies and states, Mr. Burgess, an eminent citizen of Providence, remarks, in the course of an address [fn: See also Smith Wilkinson's letter, post page 310] "A circumstance, worthy of the attention of the whole nation, and worthy also of a fair page in her history, is the art and mystery of making cloth with machinery moved by water power. This was introduced into Rhode Island, and commenced in Pawtucket, four miles from Providence, about the same time that the American system was established, by the impost law of July 4, 1789. ... A yard of cloth then, made by the wheel and loom, cost fifty, and never less than forty, cents. It may now (1836) be had for nine or ten cents." Mr. Slater came out to America without drawings, models, or patterns, or machinery. He relied solely upon his memory of what he had seen in England, and this intuitive faculty did not forsake him on trial.
The following letter is enrolled with the archives of the Historical Society of Rhode Island
"Sir: I herewith present to the Society the shears with which the first cold or cut nail was formed in this country, and probably the first ever cut in the world. They were obtained from Mr. Jeremiah Wilkinson, of Cumberland, whom I visited a few months since, in company with Mr. David Wilkinson, for the purpose of obtaining some information relative to the commencement of the cold or cut nail business in the country. Mr. Wilkinson is eighty-six years of age the present month, and is a very intelligent old gentleman. He informed me that he followed the business of making hand cards in the year 1776, at which time he experienced great difficulty in obtaining tacks for the purpose of nailing on his cards, owing to the hostilities between this country and Great Britain, the consequent high price of English tacks, and the tediousness of the process in making them in this country in the old mode by hammering. These considerations suggested to Mr. Wilkinson the idea of making them cold; and, for the purpose of trying the experiment, he, with these shears, cut from the plate of an old chest lock a number of tacks, which he headed in a smith's vice. Succeeding in this experiment, he, from that time, made all the tacks he required in his business in the same way from sheets of iron. Subsequently he made larger nails -- such as shingle and lath nails -- from old Spanish hoops, which were headed in a clamp, or tool, confined between the jaws of his vice. I obtained on of the heading tools, which I also present with the shears. The first improvements in the method of cutting and heading the nails were made by one Eleazer Smith, from whom I expect soon some further account of the business, when I will lay it before the Society. Mr. Wilkinson also made, during the revolutionary war, pins and darning needles from wire drawn by himself, samples of which I also present. ...
"Pawtucket, July 19, 1827."
Mr. Samuel Slater, to whom Rhode Island owes so much for its manufacturing prosperity, arrived in this country in 1790, [fn.: So stated in his Memoir; but he actually arrived in December, 1789.] and the same year was engaged by Messrs. Almy & Brown, of Pawtucket, cotton fabricators, to superintend their factory, which was a wretched affair. Here, by degrees, he laid the foundation of his fame. The following letter from Mr. Smith Wilkinson, written at the request of Slater's biographer, furnishes such facts as may be needed to illustrate the opening career of the pioneer, in his line of business:
"Mr. Samuel Slater came to Pawtucket early in January 1790, in company with Moses Brown, William Almy, Obadiah Brown, and Smith Brown, who did a small business in providence, at manufacturing on billies and jennies, driven by men, as also were the carding machines. They wove and finished jeans, fustians, thicksetts, velverets, etc., the work being mostly performed by Irish emigrants. There was a spinning frame in the building, which used to stand on the southwest abutment of Pawtucket bridge, owned by Ezekiel Carpenter, which was started for trial, (after it was built for Andrew Dexter and Lewis Peck,) by Joseph and Richard Anthony, who are now living at or near Providence. But the machine was very imperfect, and made very uneven yarn. The cotton for this experiment was carded by hand, and roped on a woolen wheel, by a female. Mr. Slater entered into contract with Wm. Almy and Smith Brown, and commenced building a water-frame of twenty-four spindles, two carding machines, and the drawing and roping frames necessary to prepare for the spinning, and soon after added a frame of forty-eight spindles. He commenced sometime in the fall of 1790 or in the winter of 1790-1791. I was then in my tenth year, and went to work for him, and began at tending the breaker. The mode of laying the cotton by hand -- taking up a handful, and pulling it apart with both hands, and shifting it all into the right hand, to get the staple of the cotton straight, and fix the handful, so as to hold it firm, and then applying it to the surface of the breaker, moving the hand horizontally across the card to and fro, until the cotton was fully prepared.
New Jersey, Vermont, Louisiana, Kentucky, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Ohio, etc., etc.
Early discoveries and the application of machinery in these states, are, as constituting an item of historical information, involved in the industrial history of other states, of which they were then either territorial parts or elements of one social and industrial system. It is difficult, therefore, to locate with certainty, early discoveries or inventive adaptations in either of them; and they are, in consequence, passed over with this explanation.
1652 -- John Clark allowed by the general court 10s for three years from every family who should use his invention for saving wood, and warming houses at little cost. After trial for this period, the same privilege was granted him during his natural life.
1641 -- The general court enacts that, as Samuel Winslow has invented a method of manufacturing salt, none are to make this article for ten years, except in a manner different from his, provided he set up his works within a year.
1656 -- John Winthrop, son of the governor, granted by the same authority, the sole privilege for making salt for twenty years, after his particular method.
1671 -- Richard Wharton a lawyer, of Boston, and Company, have certain special privileges from the legislation for the manufacture of tar, pitch, turpentine, etc.
1672 -- The general court reply to several hatters, who wished to have as a company peculiar privileges, that these should be "granted to them, when they should make as good hats, and sell them as cheap, as those imported were.
1722 -- The legislature offer, by an act passed, a premium for duck and linen made in the province, of domestic material.
1640 -- The general court offer 3d on every 1s worth of linen and cotton cloth made in the colony; but this act was repealed the same year, "because of the public burdens."
1701 -- The legislature, to encourage the sowing and manufacture of hemp, raised in the province, engage to pay to any company, "who purchase this article at 4 1/2d a pound, a bounty of 1/2d on each pound so purchased."
1766 -- In this year Jacob Perkins was born -- one of the first of American inventors, in point of time, and among the most ingenious, as regards the triumphs of genius. He took out in this country seventeen patents -- the first being for nail making machinery, 1799. His career was an eventful and remarkable one; but our want of space forbids any attempt here to trace it in detail. He was in turn a bead-maker; a shoe-buckle manufacturer; a plater; a die-sinker; a nail manufacturer; an improver of engines and hydraulic machines; an engraver; the inventor of the stereotype check-plate; also of a method of boring out cannon, and perfecting articles of gunnery; likewise a method of softening and hardening steel, by which engraving was much facilitated; demonstrated the compressibility of water, a problem that had baffled the ingenuity of natural philosophers for centuries; invented the bathometer and the pleometer; and finally closed his life in experimenting on the theory of steam, and its appliances.
The first mill in New England was a wind-mill, erected near Watertown. It was taken down, and subsequently rebuilt near Boston, 1632. In 1733, some water-mills were put up in the colony. Printing soon after followed -- the Bible being printed at Cambridge as early as 1664, and translated into the Indian language.
In 1786, Robert and Alexander Barr, brothers from Scotland, were employed by a Mr. Orr to erect carding, spinning, and roping machines in his works at East Bridgewater, where they were made. [fn: How far this statement conflicts with Mr. Slater's claim to pioneership or originality in the cotton business, the reader must determine.] On the 16th of November, 1786, the general court, to encourage the machinists, made them a grant of £200 for their ingenuity, and afterward added to the bounty by giving them six tickets in the state land lottery, in which they were no blanks.
In March, 1787, Thomas Somers, [an Englishman,] under the direction of Mr. Orr, also constructed a machine, or model; and by a resolve of the general court, of the same date, £20 were placed in the hands of Mr. Orr to encourage him in the enterprise. "It is believed," says Slater's biographer, "that the above, in 1786, was the first jenny and stock card made in the United States."
Mr. Orr is also said to have been the first to manufacture muskets in the United States; and it is probably true that he was the first to manufacture nails by machinery.
Mr. Hallet, in a speech some years ago on the subject of opening a railroad communication between Boston and Albany, N.Y., adverted to the early efforts of enterprising individuals in Massachusetts to establish a manufacturing system. He said, "In 1787 the first cotton-mill in this state was gotten up in Beverly, by John Cabot and others; and in three years it was nearly given up, in consequence of the difficulties which the first beginning of the development of the vast resources of domestic industry in our state had to encounter." The proprietors of this mill, in 1790, memorialized the legislature for aid, to "save them from abandoning their scheme altogether." Such was the foundation of the cotton business of Massachusetts -- the little mill at Beverly, [Bryerly.]
The archives of New Hampshire contain little of moment, as a subject of inquiry here.
In 1786, Benjamin Dearborn, of Portsmouth, memorializes the legislature for "encouragement," as the inventor "of a new constructed printing press;" which prayer the legislature grants by enacting a law for his benefit. The same individual, the year succeeding, petitioned the legislature for a monopoly of "making and vending a hand engine for throwing water," and also "a balance or scales on a new plan;" and the council gave him the privileges asked, for a period of fourteen years.
1789 -- Oliver Evans, a citizen of the state of Delaware, petitions the legislature, in that "he hath invented, discovered, and introduced into exercise, two machines for the use of four-mills, one of which, denominated by the said Oliver Evans an 'elevator,' is calculated by its own motion to hoist the wheat or grain from the lower floor, and meal or flour from the stones of any mill, to the upper loft of such mill; the other, denominated a 'hopper-boy' is so constructed as to spread the meal over the floor of the mill to cool, gather it up again to the bolting hopper, and attend the same regularly without the assistance of manual labour;" and Mr. Evans prayed for a monopoly of the sale of the machines in the state, which was granted, for a period of fourteen years.
1791 -- John Young invents a machine for "carrying smoke," which is to be "applied in altering chimneys." It consists in inserting a tube from the outside through the wall into the chimney, on each floor of the building. Monopoly granted for fourteen years.
Delaware gave birth to Oliver Evans, a name as much honored in the chronicles of invention and discovery, as any other. He was the inventor of the land-carriage, propelled by steam; and although that contrivance has been superseded by the railway and locomotive, and the floating steamer, which did not form one and the same combination in his discovery, it is evident that he contributed to the subsequent success of experimenters in steam appliances, by the knowledge conveyed to them through this medium. His fame also rests on the merits of his discoveries in mill improvements, which, as will be seen by recurrence to the preceding chapter, he persevered in extending to other states besides his own. His grant theory was confined to the construction of a steam land-carriage, which excluded him from the controversy between Fitch and Rumsey, or otherwise, it may be, he might have shown a claim to the original application of steam on water quite as strong in proof as the latter. He says: "About the year 1772, being then an apprentice to a wheelwright, or wagon-maker, I laboured to discover some means of propelling land carriages without animal power. All the modes that have since been tried, (so far as I have heard of them,) such as wind, treadles with ratchet wheels, crank tooth, etc., to be wrought [worked] by men, presented themselves to my mind, but were considered as too futile to deserve an experiment; and I concluded that such motion was impossible, for want of a suitable original power. But one of my brothers, on a Christmas evening, informed me that he had been that day in company with a neighbouring blacksmith's boy, who, for amusement, had stopped up the touch-hole of a gun barrel, then put in about a gill of water, and rammed down a tight wad; after which they put the breech in the smith's fire, when it discharged itself with as loud a crack as if it had been loaded with powder. It immediately occurred to me that here was the power to propel any wagon, if I could only apply it; and I set myself to work to find out the means." Being poor, and the country remaining in an embarrassed condition, consequent upon the war, until after Fitch, Fulton, and Rumsey appeared, with their claims to a more useful invention or discovery, Evans did not succeed in enlisting the popular belief or sympathies; and so perished his grand conception, with few to appreciate its nature or extent, though the world is indebted to him for its uses as a local power for engines, and in driving locomotives over our railway tracks.
The early population of New York, as a people, were more attached to the steady manners, customs, and pursuits of their Dutch ancestry, than to spectacular progress. their inventive skill, therefore, was not remarkable. The following petition, entitled "An application to the Governor for aid to perfect an invention to increase the speed of vessels," was presented by one John Marsh, in 1693: [spelling standardized. KWD]
"These are to acquaint the Governor that I am about making a small vessel that shall sail faster than all other by abundance.
"According as I have already acquainted you with-all -- Now in as much as this excellent art that I have found out will be mightily for the honor and profit of the King and Kingdom of England, and likewise it will be a means to advance New York.
"Therefore my request is, to the Governor that he would be pleased in the King's behalf to let me have as much sail cloth as will make me sails and a little small rigging, all which will not cost above seven pounds.
"Now the chiefest reason why I make this little vessel is to make the Governor sensible that I can do by my art as I have formerly said,and then if the Governor will be pleased to acquaint the King therewith, it may do well.
"I pray you Governor do not slight this my art, lest it prove to the King's disadvantage; and hinder your self of benefit that may be got thereby; for there hath been many arts heretofore found out, that was slighted and thought as impossible as this can be, before they was discovered; as for instance, at first, who could have believed that the wide ocean should be crossed by art of shipping as it is at this time, and likewise who could believe that such great things should be done by art of gunpowder as is, and was not the man of famous memory, C.C. which discovered this America slighted by England, but embraced by Spain and Portugal to their great honor and profit; and many other great discoveries of arts that might be instanced that made Europe to flourish above other parts of the world that have not had the advantage of such ingenious men amongst them; I pray deny me not of sails, and if I do not perform what I proposed, then I will bound to pay you double for your damage and your sails again."
"The above Marsh was a carpenter. He is the same that submitted an application to Fletcher, relative to some engine he had invented." [N.Y.C.M., vol. viii]
A cotton mill seems to have been in operation in New York city prior to 1789; for Mr. Slater, in applying for the situation at Pawtucket, dates his letter from there, and says, "If," addressing Messrs. Almy and Brown, "you are not provided for, [I] should be glad to serve you; though I am in the New York Manufactory, and have been for three weeks, since I arrived from England. But we have but one card, two machines, two spinning jennies, which I think are not worth using," etc.
A conflict of opinion still prevails, with respect to the originator or inventor of steam as a propelling power -- naturally enough,each state, having the slightest claim to the honour, contesting every inch of ground in its favour. This question is, with as much brevity as the case will admit, disposed of under the head "Pennsylvania." [See below.]
Some pin makers came to this state in 1812, and established themselves in Greenwich. This was the earliest attempt at pin making in that commonwealth.
The first great name which presents itself here, if not in the order of time, at least in primitive eminence, is that of John Fitch. Mr. Fitch in the spring of 1785 conceived the idea of applying steam for the purpose of propelling vessels. He divested himself of every other occupation, and set to work sedulously to carry his scheme into effect. He applied to Congress, and the legislatures of states for aid, to encourage him in his undertaking; but without avail. His next step, undeterred by rebuffs, was to ask of the several states the exclusive "right to the use of fire and steam to navigation within their territories;" to which prayer Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, New York, and Virginia responded," by granting him what he desired -- limiting the right to fourteen years. In a memorial to Congress, five years after, (1790,) he says, "he knew there were a great number of ways of applying the power of steam to the propelling of vessels through the water, perhaps all equally effective; but this formed no part of his consideration, knowing that, if he could bring his steam-engine to work in a boat, he would be under no difficulty in applying its force." Of course, Fitch had possessed himself of some knowledge of Evans' scheme, as is shown in their intercourse. Besides, a Treatise, published in America, in 1785, (the year in which he conceived his own project,) on the subject of "a steamboat constructed on the river Soane, under the direction of Marquis Jouffroy, in 1781," must have fallen into his hands, or at least, by being read and circulated, suggested the practicability of such a scheme. Even earlier than this, Thomas Paine's recommendation to Congress, (which was in 1778,) to adopt measures for encouraging the building of steamers on Jonathan Hulls' plan, "to go against wind and tide," secured by patent in England, in 1736, may have directed his attention to the subject. At all events, Mr. Fitch, as he voluntarily admits, was not ignorant of the fact that such uses had been made of steam; what he sought to accomplish was, the application of ascertained means to produce an unattained result. He wished to control steam, as Morse has since controlled and rendered beneficent and efficient, the electrical element. How this was to be done, will appear hereafter. Meanwhile, the model of his vessel was but partially completed. Oliver Evans, in a sworn affidavit, before Joseph Forrest, magistrate, of Washington City, declares that "When John Fitch and his company were engaged in constructing their steamboat in Philadelphia, he, the said Oliver, suggested to the said John Fitch the plan of driving and propelling the said boat by paddle or flutter wheels at the sides of the boat, when the said Fitch informed him that one of the company had already proposed and urged the use of wheels at the sides, but that he had objected to them." [Dr. William Thornton was the party who advised the side wheels. [fn.: Subsequently Superintendent of the Patent Office.]] ... "The said Oliver also saith, that some time about the years 1786, 1787, or 1788, the said Fitch informed him that he contemplated employing his steamboat on the lakes, and meant to construct them with two keels, to answer as runners; and when the lakes should freeze over, he would raise his boat on the ice, and by a wheel on each side, with spikes in the rims, to take hold of the ice, he calculated it would be possible to run thirty miles an hour." The steamboat had thus far been developed by Fitch between 1786 and 1788. That a model of his invention, perfect or imperfect, existed as early as 1785, is shown by reference to the Minutes of the American Philosophical Society, [fn.: Philadelphia] September 27, 1785; also the Minutes of the same, December 2, 1785. At this special meeting,Fitch was personally presented to the members.
Desirous of having the opinions of men of weight at that period, he consulted Mr. Daniel Longstreth, Rev. Nathaniel Irwin, and a number of others, of Bucks county; and subsequently Mr. Henry, of Lancaster, "who informed me," says Mr. Fitch, "that he was the first person who had thought of applying steam to vessels; that he had conversed with Mr. Andrew Ellicott, as early as the year 1776, and that Mr. Paine, author of Common Sense, had suggested the same thing to him in the winter of 1778; that some time after, he (Mr. Henry) thinking more seriously of the matter, was of opinion it might be easily perfected, and accordingly made some drafts, which he proposed to lay before the Philosophical Society, and which he then showed me, but added, as he had neglected to bring them to the public view, and as I had first published the plan to the world, he would lay no claim to the invention." Mr. Ellicott makes affidavit, that the substance of the conversation referred to by Mr. Henry, as had with him, is correct and true. Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to Governor Smallwood, of Virginia, whom he succeeded in office, dated November, 1785, says, "Mr. John Fitch, of Bucks county, in Pennsylvania, called on me on his way to Richmond. ... But his genius is not confined to this alone; he has spent much thought on an improvement of the steam engine, by which to gain a first power," etc. The object of Mr. Fitch's journey to Virginia, was to obtain certain navigation privileges, which have been already mentioned.
In May, 1788, Samuel Briggs, under oath, makes affidavit, that "in the summer of 1786, I performed some turning work for John Fitch, being patterns for castings for his steamboat." One year later, December, 1787, David Rittenhouse certifies that he "has frequently seen Mr. Fitch's steamboat, which, with great labor and perseverance, he has at length completed, and has likewise been on board when the boat was worked against both wind and tide, with a very considerable degree of velocity, by the force of steam only." John Ewing, "having also seen the boat urged by the force of steam, and having been on board of it when in motion, concurs" with Mr. Rittenhouse. Andrew Ellicott, to whom Mr. Henry refers, in the interview with Fitch two years prior, in 17878, "is gratified to perceive that he has brought his invention to a successful issue." Finally, we have the testimony of Dr. Thornton, Fitch's associate in the enterprise. His evidence is given twenty-three years after these events, in 1810, when, as Commissioner of Patents, and being a gentleman of integrity, he could not have been guilty of perverting facts; there remained no motive to do so. In his vindication of his former friend and confederate, he expressly declares that he is impelled to the step only as an act of justice to the dead, for whose honours, as the originator of the steam vessel, Mr. Fulton was then contending. "We worked," he says, alluding to his connection with the enterprise, "incessantly on the boat, to bring it to perfection; and some account of our labours may be seen in the 'Travels of Brissot de Warville' in this country; and under the disadvantages of never having seen a steam engine, on the principles contemplated, and of not having a single engineer in our company or pay; we made engineers of common blacksmiths; and after expending many thousands of dollars, the boat did not exceed three miles an hour. Finding great unwillingness in many to proceed, I proposed to the company to give up to any one the half of my shares, who would, at his own expense, make a boat to go at the rate of eight miles an hour in dead water, in eighteen months, or forfeit all the expenditures on failing; or, I would engage, with any others, to accept these terms. Each relinquished one half his shares, by making the forty shares eighty, and holding only as many of the new shares as he held of the old ones, and then subscribed as far as he thought proper, to enter on the terms by which many relinquished one half. I was among the number who proceeded; and in less than twelve months we were ready for the experiment." Everything, meanwhile, had been carried on at the instance and under the superintendence of Mr. Fitch. "The day was appointed, and the experiment made in the following manner. A mile was measured in Front street, (or Water street,) Philadelphia, and the bounds projected at right angles, as exactly as could be, to the wharves, where a flag was placed at each end, and also a stop watch. The boat was ordered under way at dead water, or when the tide was found to be without movement. As the boat passed one flag, it was struck, and at the same instant the watches were set off; as the boat reached the other flat, it was also struck, and the watches instantly stopped. Every precaution was taken before witnesses; the time was shown to all; the experiment declared to be fairly made; and the boat was found to go at the rate of eight miles an hour, or one mile within the eighth of an hour; on which, the shares were signed over with great satisfaction by the rest of the company. It (the same boat) afterward went eighty miles in a day," or nine miles an hour. This statement refers to the year 1787, still in corroboration of the testimony already adduced. We therefore have these facts to rely upon.
1st, That the original idea of the steamboat was entertained by Mr. Fitch in 1785, no matter whence or how suggested.
2d, That Oliver Evans called upon him, while the boat was constructing, (which could not have been later than 1786, as in the year following it was completed,) and suggested to him the propriety or expediency of adapting the side wheels; that he was informed Mr. Fitch had already thought of the measure, but had rejected it.
3d, That in November, 1785, he proceeded to Virginia, and asked for legislative protection, and a grant of privileges, for navigating the rivers of the commonwealth.
4th, That in the summer of 1786, Samuel Briggs had made the patterns of the castings for his boat, not for his model.
5th, That in 1787, David Rittenhouse, John Ewing, Andrew Ellicott, [fn.: Professor of Mathematics and Astronomy, in the Episcopal Academy of Philadelphia] and others, had been on Mr. Fitch's boat, and had been witnesses of its trial.
6th, That in 1787, Mr. Thornton was one of the number who participated on the occasion, when, to the entire satisfaction and delight of hundreds, the boat performed at the rate of eight miles an hour, at dead water.
These facts being established, by voluminous records of the day, but which here have sufficient foundation in the testimony adduced, we will turn to another claimant, who comes forward as Mr. Fitch's real antagonist in the dispute.
James Rumsey, a Virginia by adoption, but a native of Maryland, undertook to maintain a right to originality in the appliance of steam to navigation; and without doubt there are some yet who advocate this view. Mr. Rumsey was fortunate in attracting the notice of the great men of the day, and was thus formidable to Fitch, who persevered in comparative obscurity. Even in Philadelphia, Fitch's home, an association was formed, styling itself the "Rumseian Society," which embraced such names as Benjamin Franklin, Arthur St. Clair, William Bingham, Benjamin Wynkoop, James Tunchard, John Jones, Levi Hollingsworth, Joseph James, John Wilson, George Duffield, Reed & Forde, Woodross & Sims, William Redford & Sons, agents for Robert Barclay of London, William Turner, John Ross, John Vaughn, Burgis Allison, Charles Vancouver, Miers Fisher, Adam Kuhn, Samuel Magaw, Samuel Wheeler, Richard Adams, and William Barton.
Mr. Rumsey gave John Fitch some trouble and more anxiety of mind, by endeavoring to supplant him, not only in the estimation of the public, but by contesting his right in the legislatures of the states. Mr. Rumsey's first application to the legislature of New York, was in the autumn of 1788. About the same time, the Rumseian Society in Philadelphia addressed a memorial in his favor to the same body, which was read in the House of Assembly, December 18, 1788, and referred to a committee of three. Opposed to this, was a petition in favor of Fitch, signed by John Ewing, Robert Patterson, Andrew Ellicott, John Smilie, David Redick, James Hutchinson, T.Y. Matlack, Charles Petit, J.B. Smith, David Rittenhouse, John Poor, and John Ely. John Heart, "Captain 1st U.S. Regt., was on board Mr.Fitch's steamboat on the river Delaware. (on the 16th of Oct, 1788,) saw it perform, and I do certify that it was impelled by the force of steam, at the rate of at least four miles an hour, against the strength of tide;" and these facts he communicates to the legislature. Other petitions and certificates, of like tenor, poured in; but Rumsey urged his suit with pertinacity, to which weight was given by the eminent names he had secured to his interest. Meanwhile another claimant appeared. Mr. Henry Voight, of Philadelphia, professed to have suggested to Fitch the kind of boiler to be used by him, and requested that this part of the grant to Fitch, (if included in the privilege,) should be expunged, and placed to his credit. But Mr. Fitch disposed of this fresh vexation in a summary manner, by citing the Minutes of the Philosophical Society, which corroborated the facts of his memorial, which was as follows:
"Philadelphia, 13th Dec., 1788
"Honored Sir, [Speaker of the N.Y. Assembly]
"It is so very inconvenient for me to attend your assembly this session, to answer the repeated vexatious claims of James Rumsey, I have taken the liberty to enclose to you a petition to your honorable House, several certificates, a pamphlet, a report of the committee of Pennsylvania, etc., all which I pray you to lay before your honorable House.
"There is one part of the pamphlet which may require a little explaining, as they hinge much, and their whole dependence of the pipe boiler rests on it; where, speaking of Mr. Voight, and the pipe boiler, page 14, I say that I am indebted to him alone for the improvement, yet it cannot be denied but I laid a drawing of a pipe-boiler before the Philosophical Society many months before he pretends to have [done so;] therefore I hope your house will not [conceive his words] to convey more than the very expression itself, [and that they] may not be construed, instead of an improvement, that they shall convey the idea that I am indebted to him for the invention. ... John Fitch."
The committee of the assembly ultimately reported, adversely to both Rumsey and Voight, and in favour of Fitch. But the subject was, on a recommitment by the assembly, reconsidered, and a report made, of which the following is the closing paragraph. As Rumsey in person, as well as by attorney (Mr. Barnes,) was constantly on attendance at the capital, aided also by powerful influences, it is not to be wondered at that he would not allow his claim to slumber, or be rejected, while a chance offered for successfully combating opposition. This final report of the committee, therefore, is not surprising, since the members of it show a total ignorance of what discoveries had been made prior to the time of Fitch and Rumsey, and since, in their grant to the latter, they virtually assert that he was the inventor of the plan suggested by Bernoulli the younger, and published in his (Latin) works fifty years previously. John Stevens had also presented a claim, and the committee -- the reader will naturally now inquire, by what exercise of sagacity and justice -- classed his invention or discovery with, and disposed of it in, the same category. They say,
They have examined the petitions of the said James Rumsey and John Fitch, with the papers and affidavits accompanying the same, and are of the opinion that the said James Rumsey hath by actual experiment ascertained the practicability of propelling boats by the agency of steam, in a mode and on principles different from those heretofore used by the said John Fitch; but that the act securing to John Fitch the exclusive right of propelling boats by the force of fire or steam for a limited time, is conceived in such general terms, that it would be improper to vacate any part of the said grant, without giving both parties a hearing. But the committee are further of opinion, that nothing in the said act, securing to John Fitch the exclusive right of propelling boats by fire or steam, can be construed to prevent the legislature from securing to James Rumsey, for a limited time, the exclusive right of generating steam by his new invented method of a pipe-boiler. And, further, that they have examined the petition of John Stevens, and the drafts accompanying the same, and are of opinion that the method proposed by him, for propelling boats by steam, does not materially differ in its principles from the force proposed by James Rumsey; and that he stands in the same situation, with respect to John Fitch, as the said James Rumsey," etc., etc.
Yet here is what Mr. Ewing, in his affidavit, asserts, September 27, 1785, three years before the question of a pipe-boiler was brought to the consideration of the New York legislature:
"Mr. Fitch, in his explanation of this draft to me, before he presented it to the Philosophical Society, mentioned that his intention of conveying the water from the forcing pump is a tube that passed through the fire, was, that it might thereby be set a boiling before it entered in the receiver, least the cold water, mixing with the boiler water in the receiver, should impede the generation of the steam."
In the legislature of Pennsylvania, Mr. Fitch managed to secure his rights, and to retain them against all opposition. He came off with a similar result in the legislatures of New Jersey and Delaware, but in those of Maryland and Virginia, he still encountered the determined and indefatigable Rumsey. On a petition, addressed to the House of Assembly of Maryland, is indorsed these words: "Read 11th November, 1783, and referred to the next session of Assembly." It appears from this, therefore, that he was an applicant to the legislature two years before Fitch conceived the idea of his invention; but it will hereafter be seen that his scheme had not even the merit of being a reiteration of the one proposed by Paine in 1778. It was for a boat, but not a steamboat. The legislature, without inquiring minutely into his invention, and relying upon his representation of it, in 1785 enacted a law in his favor, granting him a monopoly on the navigation of "the creeks, rivers, and bays of the state," on his plan, for the term of ten years.
In 1784, the House of Delegates of Virginia passed a law in Mr. Rumsey's favor, to the same effect, with this proviso, "that the exclusive right therein granted may at any time be abolished by the legislature of this commonwealth, upon the payment unto the said Rumsey, his heirs, or assigns, of the sum of ten thousand pounds in gold or silver." And it appears this reserved authority for revoking the grant was put to practical test in 1787; for in that year a more comprehensive grant was made to Fitch, whereupon Mr. Rumsey addresses a complaint, in the form of a memorial, to the legislature. This remonstrance it is not necessary to copy. Suffice that Mr. Rumsey's statement, on the question of originality of claim between himself and Mr. Fitch, was taken as precluding the latter from the honor of having invented the first steamboat, and the grant previously made to him was revoked. Thus Mr. Rumsey ultimately triumphed in the legislatures of Virginia, Maryland, and New York, while Mr. Fitch made good his claim in the assemblies of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware.
Now let us ascertain with what degree of fairness three of the six states, through their delegates, pronounced in favor of Mr. Rumsey, and against Mr. Fitch.
Mr. Rumsey says, "In the month of September, 1784, [one year after his petition to the legislature of Maryland.] he exhibited the model of a boat to his Excellency, General Washington, at Bath, calculated for stemming the currents of rapid rivers only, constructed on principles very different from the present one. Satisfied of the experiment of her making way against a rapid stream, by the force of the stream, the General was pleased to give a most ample certificate of her efficiency." Washington's certificate was as follows: "I have seen the model of Mr. Rumsey's boat, constructed to work against stream, examined the powers upon which it acts, been eye-witness to an actual experiment in running water of some rapidity, and give it as my opinion (although I had little faith before) that he has discovered the art of working boats by mechanism, and small manual assistance, against rapid currents." etc., certified to be a true copy by "Ben. Walker, formerly aid-de-camp to his Excellency, Gen. Washington." Here is no mention of steam. It is neither claimed by the inventor, nor alluded to by Washington. The boat was in fact constructed on a contrivance known as early as 1719. The figure may be seen in "Recueil d'Ouvrages Curieux de Mathematique et Mechanique, par Serviere, 1719." It consists of a boat, "having an axis across it, with paddle-wheels outside, dipping into the water, while beyond the wheels, on each side, there is a double crank, to which long setting poles are jointed. When the boat is placed in a running stream, the current, actuating the wheels, and causing them to revolve, is intended to work the setting poles, and thus cause the boat to ascend the stream." The same idea had been suggested to a Reading farmer, who tried the experiment on the river Schuylkill about the year 1750; but it did not succeed, and was abandoned.
To come now to Mr. Rumsey's later claims. Mr. Manuel Eyre, of Philadelphia, says, he was in the Pennsylvania Assembly in 1784, "and was one of the committee appointed to report on Mr. James Rumsey's petition for his boat to go against the streams of rapid rivers, and that there was no mention made, nor any idea held up, to the committee, that it was to be propelled by the force of steam." "It," says Mr. Rumsey, alluded to the working of his boat, "may be wrought at no greater expense than that of three hands," clearly indicating that the expense of fire for generating steam was not in contemplation. Washington adds that the machinery "is so simple that it may be executed by the most common mechanic," thereby showing that the sentence did not, by any means, apply to the construction of a steam engine. But a year subsequently, in 1785, the year when Mr. Fitch moved in his scheme, Mr. Rumsey claims to have matured his plan of a steamboat, and to have been in advance of Mr. Fitch some months. The reader will remember that in November, 1785, Mr. Fitch passed through Virginia, stopping on his way at Fredericktown; that the letter he obtained from Governor Johnson to Governor Smallwood bore this date; and that nothing was spoken or insinuated calculated to induce Fitch to believe he had a rival in the field. Governor Johnson, long afterward, in a letter to Mr. Rumsey, says, "In October or November, 1785, you told me that you had relied on steam for your first power, and wished me to promote your having some castings at my brother's and my works" at Fredericktown; "but the attempt did not succeed." Mr. Fitch declares that "he publicly made his business known in that town," which, it will be observed, was made during the same month and in the same year, and if he made no secret of his invention, it is quite probable that he would have heard of any rival scheme, if any such existed or had been agitated there at the time. Combining these facts, it is strange that Mr. Rumsey should make oath before the legislatures of New York, Maryland, and Virginia, that "all the castings of his boat were furnished at Fredericktown by the first of December, 1785;" for, according to Governor Johnson's showing, on which he mainly relies, the first application to have the castings made, was after the 25th of November, 1785, and even then, the attempt did not succeed. Between the 25th of November and the 1st of December, but six days intervened. Could Mr. Rumsey's castings have been finished within this period -- patterns, moulds, castings, and all, including what was necessary to compensate for loss of time on the first failure? The assumption is preposterous; and Mr. Rumsey has, by some inadvertence or treachery of memory, substituted the year 1785 for 1786, when Mr. Fitch's scheme had been perfected and practicably disclosed to the world. Or Mr. Rumsey has subsequently discarded water and manual power for steam, and by modifying the features of his original plan, effected a new combination, and swears that, from the first, they constituted one invention. In no other way could he reconcile the facts, as they must have appeared to him, to his conscience. Frankly, then, Mr. Rumsey was preceded by Mr. Fitch in the matter of originality in the invention of the steamboat, whether the former did, or did not, reconcile doubts to his mind, by considering his crank and pole boat, as first shown to Washington, and his subsequent improvement, as one and the same invention. For, however we view the question, Mr. Fitch appears to have been foremost in consummating the practical plan of propulsion by steam; and if anything else were wanting to fix this fact, it would be Daniel Buckley's affidavit, who was employed by Rumsey in some parts of his work. Rumsey says "at this critical moment he received a letter from Mr. Buckley, near Philadelphia, stating that a Mr. Fitch of Philadelphia was applying himself to the same end;" and owing to this intelligence "he engaged in his enterprise with more haste and ardour than ever." Mr. Fitch had not become a resident of Philadelphia until 1786, and Mr. Buckley subsequently declares "the letter written by him to Mr. Rumsey was about the period Brigges was employed in making the patterns for Fitch's castings." Mr. Brigges, as we have seen, says this was in 1786, and consequently Mr. Rumsey misdates Mr. Bulkley's letter, by substituting 1785 for 1786. Farther, George Scott, who was employed in welding the seams of the "copper-pipes" of Mr. Rumsey's boat at Fredericktown, says the period when this work was done was in 1786, and that "he knows of no prior work done in that place for Mr. R. on account of his invention." Elizabeth Zimmers, relict of Matthias Zimmers, former partner of Mr. Scott, corroborates this statement. Michael Baltzel certifies that he "turned works for Mr. James Rumsey, of Virginia, for his steamboat, viz., a round piece of wood, about eight inches diameter, and about four feet long, to round his copperworks upon. Said turning was done in March, 1786." Yet Mr. Rumsey has sworn that all his castings were finished at this place (Fredericktown) before the first of December, 1785. Jonathan Morris and John Peters, residents of Fredericktown,and the latter employed in making the tin work of the boat, certify to the same facts. And Joshua Minshall deposes that "he has resided in this town (Fredericktown) about three years, during which time there have been no coppersmiths resided in this town, except Mr. Matthias Zimmers and myself, and that I was knowing to [sic] Mr. Zimmers making copperworks for Mr. Rumsey's steamboat, and am of opinion it was late in the spring or summer before the said Rumsey took said work from Mr. Zimmers, in the year 1786."
Mr. Rumsey, in a publication of the day, parades a certificate of Christopher Raborg before the public, prefacing it with the remark, that "Mr. Raborg was the person who undertook to make cocks for my steamboat," and by him he declares "he will prove they were furnished at the time mentioned," namely, in 1785. Mr. Raborg's certificate is as follows: "This may certify that Joseph Barnes (Rumsey's attorney and partner) did bespeak of me four brass cocks, which he said were for the warm springs; that being disappointed by my journeymen, I got them made by Mr. Charles Weir & Co. Said cocks I do believe were made in the fall of 1785, but have no charge made of them to ascertain the time with precision." The "warm springs" story, Mr. Rumsey acknowledges, was a ruse for "concealing his enterprise from the public." But Mr. Weir, who was not willing to permit this statement to rest at his expense, avows that he made the cocks for Mr. Raborg in 1786, and Mr. Causten, his partner, says "they are charged on the company's account, March 29, 1786" -- another curious discrepancy in Mr. Rumsey's statement, still to be reconciled. It is needless to pursue the question of originality between Mr. Fitch and Mr. Rumsey farther. It is evident that the pretensions of the latter are admissible only as showing, that a stupendous fraud was contemplated, and consummated with impunity to some extent.
Between Mr. Fitch and Mr. Fulton, the question assumes a different phase, and is of a more positive and tangible character. It can only be settled on well grounded facts; but of what shall these facts consist? A point must be established and a line of demarcation drawn. This point shall be the initiative of the inquiry, and the line define what really constitutes discovery. Until this be done, the investigation may go back centuries, and leave both these gentlemen without credit or award, in inventing the veritable steamboat. It would rob Morse of all merit as an inventor, and refer the discovery of the electric telegraph to Thales, (who lived two thousand years ago,) because the philosopher happened to discover certain properties in amber, but which discovery he did not choose to improve upon, by bringing it to some new and practical result. With the same propriety, if we rob Mr. Fitch of the honour of having invented the first steamboat, every one who has since improved upon Mr. Fulton's scheme, may call himself the inventor of the steamboat. The initial point and demarcation line, therefore, must be clearly established somewhere, and this somewhere must be located before the world can, with justice to either party, undertake to decide on the merits of their respective claims.
Mr. Fulton was also a Pennsylvanian -- born in Lancaster county, in 1765, of Irish parents. He was a man of much genius; and Colden, in his life of him, has omitted to say nothing that reflects credit to his memory, or may be wanting to complete the measure of his fame.
We have seen of what Fitch's invention consisted. Let us examine that claimed by Mr. Fulton. Mr. Fitch required financial resources, which he could not command; and it was with difficulty he succeeded in completing his boat of the size and model it was. One of his objections, therefore, to the side-wheels, was, "their waste of power by the fall of the buckets or paddles on the water, and their lift of water in rising." both of which objections would diminish as the size of the wheels, and consequently of the boat, was increased. Fitch's boat was 8 feet wide by 60 feet long; Fulton's boat was 20 feet wide and 150 feet long; in both cases exactly 7 1/2 times the length of the breadth. Did Mr. Fulton in this copy after Mr. Fitch? Did he, in order to obviate the objection raised by Mr. Fitch to the side-wheels, construct his boat so much larger in order to diminish "the waste of power?" If all these were Mr. Fitch's suggestions, and they undoubtedly were, then, on this score, Mr. Fulton has nothing to which he can lay a just claim.
Fulton spent most of the intervening period between 1793 and 1804 in Paris and London, and was a regular correspondent of Earl Stanhope, somewhat noted for his experiments in the mechanic arts and navigation. Stanhope, in 1795, revived Genevois's scheme of propelling vessels by means of duck-footed paddles. "The engine which gave them motion was of great power, and acted on machinery that produced a horizontal stroke; but the attempt to exceed three miles an hour failed." [fn.: Stuart] "Paddle-wheels were suggested to his lordship, to produce the required speed, but the hint was thrown away upon the noble projector." [fn.: Ibid] Mr. Fulton, being in England at the time, and the intimate associate of Stanhope, caught at the suggestion which "was thrown away upon the noble projector;" and familiarizing himself with the machinery employed in the experiment, he needed only to adopt the scheme, of whatever improvements it consisted over those of Genevois, Thomason, Symington, Newcomen, Miller, Fitch, or others, and call it his own! In fact, Dr. Thornton as early as 1810, only two years after Mr. Fulton's success on the Hudson, solemnly pronounced against this plagiarism, as being an original invention of Fulton's. "Side-wheels," he says, "could not be claimed [by him] as a new invention; for their use in navigation had long been known, and published to the world by Dr. John Harris, in his Lexicon Technicum, in 1710, just one hundred years ago," and ninety-eight before Mr. Fulton's success on the Hudson. "If," continues Dr. Thornton, "Mr. Fulton should claim the actual application of steam to wheels, at the sides of a boat, in opposition to the above declarations, I beg leave to offer, as a caveat against any such claim, the fire ship of Edward Thomason, in the 10th volume of the Repertory of Arts, which was laid before the lords of the Admiralty in 1796. This contains side wheels, operated on by a steam engine, and was intended to possess the power of moving given distances in all directions, according to the intention of the director." Thomason himself says, "The first thing I had to contrive, was the mode of applying the oars. It struck me that the most simple method would be, by fixing them to one or more fly-wheels on each side of the vessel," which plan, after deliberation, he adopted. Miller, 1787, had also thought of side wheels; but it was Symington, whom Miller called to his aid, who subsequently carried his patron's invention beyond the point he had contemplated. In March, 1802, the steam tug he had built, with side wheels, having Lord Dundas and several others on board, (who avouch for the facts,) "took two loaded vessels, each of seventy tons burden, in tow with great ease through the Forth and Clyde Canal, a distance of nineteen and a half miles, in six hours, with a head wind." His engine was constructed with a steam cylinder twenty-two inches in diameter, and with a stroke of four feet. Mr. Fitch's engine, (1787,) was twelve inches in diameter, with a stroke of three feet. Mr. Fulton's experiment resulted in his boat attaining a speed of five miles an hour in 1808; Mr. Fitch's boat attained a speed in 1787 of nine miles an hour. In fact, Symington does not hesitate to declare, that he was Fulton's instructor, and that the only claim to originality, was constructing a boat for the Hudson, on the plan of that navigating the Forth and Clyde Canal! What inference, therefore, are we to draw, or what shall be drawn from this passage in Dr. Thornton's Vindication: "Mr. Vail, our consul at L'Orient, prevailed upon John Fitch to come to France, where he was solicitous to have steamboats built. But Mr. Vail, finding all the workman put in requisition, and that none could be obtained to build the boats, paid the expenses of Mr. Fitch, who returned to the United States. Mr. Vail afterward subjected to the examination of Mr. Fulton, when in France, the papers and designs of the steamboat appearing to the company." We may now dismiss the subject altogether.
1732 -- In this year, Mr. Wilcox commenced the manufacture of paper at Joy Mills. He supplied Benjamin Franklin with his printing paper while a publisher in Philadelphia.
1717 -- In this year, Thomas Masters asks privilege of lieutenant Governor Keith, to record two patents in the provinces obtained from the king, one for cleansing, curing, and refining Indian corn, the other for working and weaving palmeta, chip, and straw hats, etc., which prayer was granted.
1782 -- The following advertisement appears in the Pennsylvania Gazette.
"Philadelphia Manufactures, suitable for every season of the year, namely, Jeans, Fustians, Everlastings, Coatings, etc., to be sold by the subscriber at his dwelling house and manufactory in South Alley, between Market street and Arch street, and between Fifth and Sixth streets, on Hudson's Square.
Mr. Wetherill was the first manufacturer of these kinds of goods in America.
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