For nearly 200 years after the first settlers landed at Jamestown, people lived year after year in much the same way. They traveled on horses and stagecoaches, in canoes and sail boats. Their mail was slow and uncertain, to say the least. They had no factories and had to buy factory-made goods in Europe. Then the ways of living suddenly changed to bring America to the forefront. The first settlers in our country didn't travel much. On Sundays, they rode horseback or carriage to church, sometimes ten miles one way, and on court days the men gathered at the courthouse, but most folks stayed at home and tended to matters nearer home.
People were starting to look for ways to travel easier. Pen and paper were put together more than just for legal documents. Plans, drawings, and drafts were making it onto paper. Mr. Robert Fulton invented the first successful steamboat in 1807. Almost at the same time, Americans began to build factories and make things by machinery. The roads were becoming a important part of building. Machinery had to be moved from point to point. City officials began digging out canals and made better roads.
By 1830, the first steam engine began to run on an American railroad, and very soon after that, railroads were spreading throughout the country. A nation was on the move, and moving ahead was what it was doing. All these inventions made it possible for people to travel more comfortably, and sending mail and news was more rapid and cheaper than it had been before. But not to forget Mr. Morse, who invented telegraphy in 1844. People could send messages over wires in a twinkling of an eye. I have a telegraph that was sent to my great-grandmother Dora Ellen Watson Wadlington during WWI. It read, "Sisters, Safe an Sound, Coming home." She wept. Her baby brother, Milas Andrew Watson, was safe, and he was coming home. Her sisters Sarah, Adlaid, and Emma had lost their mother, Rhoda, as the war had began, and losing their brother would have been more than I think the girls could have taken at the time. But that one piece of paper brought hope. They had only heard from him twice since he had left. Almost at the same time that Mr. Morse invented the telegraph, Elias Howe invented the sewing machine, and farmers began to harvest their grain with Mr. Cyrus McCormick's reaper in 1831. Nothing was holding the Americans back now. In a few short years, about 40 years, steam, electricity, and machinery would prove to change our old ways of living.
Hotels, or taverns and inns as they were called, were few and bad. For a long time the roads were mere trails, fit only for those that rode horseback. Most weren't even a single lane. Because of the bad roads and poor hotels, women and children almost never traveled, and men didn't make long journeys without stops to family members to freshen and tidy up. Most of the traveling with any comfort was done by water.
When the United States became independent, it was necessary for the different parts of the country to have more to do with one another than they had as mere colonies of England. The roads had to be improved, especially our national capital, where the government was carried on.
The word invention was on just about every front page of the newspapers around the United States. England was still ahead of the United States, it already had steam engines invented, and was beginning to use machinery in factories. But no one had figured out how to move wagons, carriages, freight, or people to where it wasn't costly.
Robert Fulton was born on a farm in Little Britain, Pa., on Nov. 14, 1765. He had at least three sisters, Isabella, Elizabeth, and Mary, and a younger brother, Abraham. He then married Harriet Livingston and had four children, Julia, Mary, Cornelia, and Robert. Fulton was ten years old when the American Revolution began and grew to young manhood during the war. He had a great skill of drawing, and since photography had not been invented, he made a fairly nice salary doing small portraits. He had always been interested in machinery, and during a trip abroad to England he made a study of the steam engine. The idea of making a steamboat took hold of him, and he couldn't help himself. He could think of nothing else. His idea and thoughts kept him awake at night trying to see it in his head just how he could make this all become reality. How could he make steam work paddles and drive a boat through the water? He asked himself the question over and over again. How could it be done? He knew he had to make a scale model and then try it out. This would take money, and where could he get the money?
In Paris, he talked over his ideas with Robert Livingston, the minister of the United States who, with James Monroe, purchased Louisiana. Remember that Livingston was a member of Jefferson's committee which wrote the Declaration of Independence. He belonged to a wealthy New York family and wanted to see steamboats on the Hudson River. He agreed to furnish the money necessary for making Fulton's experiments happen. Fulton went to work immediately. If he could build a boat with a large paddle wheel on each side, and connect an engine with the wheels so as to turn round and round in the water, the boat would go. But after several failed attempts, he decided it was time to go to England and bring over one of the newest and best engines and set it up in the Clermont. And it was a success. Watching the success of the first steamboat puffing its way upstream, clouds of smoke pouring from the smokestacks and sparks showering the deck, horn blowing its announcement, animals running every which way, and the frightened settlers along the river banks, belied that the world was coming to an end. They had never dreamed of such a sight. "Terrifying monster" is what the papers read. But the terror soon passed, and the steamboat remained. Just a few years down the road, boats were being built on all the rivers. In 1811, the "New Orleans" was finished at Pittsburgh, ready for its first trip down the Ohio and the Mississippi to New Orleans. In 1817, it was the first boat to steam up the Mississippi on a complete voyage from New Orleans to St. Louis. The river had a new master, the steamboat
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