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In 1795 lord Stanhope constructed a vessel which was tried in Greenland dock; moved by duck-feet paddles at the sides. This experiment came to nothing.
In 1801 Mr. Symington tried a vessel propelled by steam in the Forth and Clyde Canal: but this was laid aside. Mr. Symington's steam boat is slightly described in the Journals of the Royal Institute for 1803. His boat is said to have travelled at the rate of two and a half miles per hour. Mr. Symington is said by Dr. Rees to have used these boats in America before Mr. Fulton's successful attempts in 1807. This by the way is the first intimation we have had in America of Mr. Symington or his experiments. It would have been well to have noticed a few more particulars of this gentleman's attempt in this country, where he seems at present to be a perfect stranger.
Then Mr. Fulton is slightly mentioned as having succeeded with steam boats in 1807: and it is said that they were used on the Clyde canal in 1812. Of Mr. Fitch and Mr. Rumsey no notice is taken; though many persons were present in Mr. Rumsey's boat when it was worked on the Thames at London at the rate of three miles per hour; and therefore must have been well known to English engineers. It is very commendable for a writer to be patriotic and national, but it does not justify either the suppressio veri, or the suggestio falsi.
This account should be compared with Mr. Colden's from page 126 to page 138.
The experiments of Mr. Fitch in America, and of Mr. Rumsey at London were a few years previous to those of lord Stanhope. Whatever pretensions these gentlemen might have had, they were abandoned; so completely, that Mr. Latrobe, one of our most intelligent engineers, stated his opinion to the American Philosophical Society in 1803, that the plan of propelling vessels by means of steam was impracticable. One general fact, then, is indubitable.
Until Fulton undertook to navigate vessels by means of steam, no person in Europe or America who had attempted it, had succeeded in the attempt for any practical or useful purpose.
Fulton never pretended to have invented the steam engine he used, or any part of it. Mr. Barlow lent him the money to purchase that engine from Boulton and Watt, with which he made his first successful experiment. The question is not, who first proposed to navigate by steam, but who first succeeded in so doing, and enabled others to succeed. In the summer of 1794 the writer of this article was at Birmingham, where Mr. Watt the elder, showed him a field of buckwheat, put in by Mr. Cooke's drill plow; and observed that the time would soon arrive when the operation of plowing would be performed by steam. Surely Mr. Watt would not be considered as the inventor of such an operation for merely suggesting that it might be done! He only would deserve the honour and the profit of the experiment, who by means of a well-considered theory, verified by trial, should render the method practicable to the public at large. Fulton did this with respect to steam navigation. It was never done by any person who had tried to do it, before him.
Captain Savary made nothing of it in 1702, nor Mr.Hull in 1736, nor the Abbé Arnal in 1781. Mr. Millar of Dalwinson abandoned it; so did Mr. Fitch in this country, whose experiment on the Delaware was in 1783: his boat was propelled by paddles. Mr. Rumsey at London died before his views were completed; but he laboured at it ineffectually for several years from 1788 to his
death. Then came the abortive attempts of Earl Stanhope, Mr. Thompson, Mr. Walker, Messrs Hunter and Dickinson, and Mr. Symington; the two last in 1801.
Lord Stanhope's experiment at Greenland dock, was in 1795. In September 1793, Mr. Fulton had communicated his ideas on steam navigation to that nobleman, who acknowledges it by letter dated October 1794. He pursued a different plan from Fulton.
Mr. Livingston in March 1798 obtained an exclusive right for steam navigation from the New York legislature, but his experiments also were abortive as to any practical utility attending them. He had the merit, however, of rightly appreciating Mr. Fulton's talents, and while embassador from the United States to France, he joined Mr. Fulton in the plan of steam navigation; and in 1803 they jointly built a boat which was propelled by steam on the Seine at Paris, with so much success, that, on their return to New York, in 1806, the project was put in execution without delay. Fulton gave directions for a steam engine to Boulton and Watt, which was executed in such a manner, as to give the experiment fair play: with this engine the first successful steam boat, built under Fulton's direction, navigated the Hudson permanently in 1807.
Hence it appears that no person whatever, either in this country or in Europe, did fairly entitle himself by practical success to the honour of introducing steam boat navigation, until Fulton took up the project: from that time, no one has found any difficulty in doing what he has taught the world how to do. This is his merit: he never claimed any other himself, and his friends have claimed no other for him.
To show how little pretensions the English have to this discovery, we lay before our readers the following extracts from the best and most popular of the monthly publications of that country.
In the London Monthly Magazine for October 1813, p. 244, it is said, “We have made it our special business to lay before the public, all the particulars we have been able to collect relative to the Invention of Steam passage boats in America, and their introduction into Great Britain; because we consider this invention as worth to mankind more than a hundred battles gained, or towns taken, even if the victors were engaged in a war, which might have some pretence to be called defensive and necessary.
It affords us great satisfaction to be able to lay before our readers, a correct description of the Clyde steam boat, obligingly communicated to us by Messrs. Woods, ship builders in port Glasgow. It is but justice, however, to those gentlemen to state, that they candidly consider the steam boats, as they are at present constructed, (that is, on the Clyde) to be in a very rude state, and capable of great improvement.***
The boat runs in calm weather four or four and a half miles per hour; but against a considerable breeze, not more than three.
In the Monthly Magazine for November 1813, vol. 36 page 385, an account is given of the New York steam boats, running on an average, with or against the tide, at the rate of six miles an hour, with the smoothness of a Dutch Streckshute.'
In the same page is a wooden cut of the Clyde boat; and a note of the Editors, stating that the inhabitants of the populous banks of the Thames, are not at present acquainted with steam boats, only through our descriptions of them.'
In the same Magazine for January 1814, p. 529, is a proposal to erect a company for the purpose of building steam boats to navigate the Thames.
In the Magazine for February 1814, page 27, is a further description of the American steam boats, as an interesting article of information.
In the same Magazine for April 1814, a further account of American steam boats is given by Mr. Ralph Dodd, engineer, who had visited them in this country. He states that there were then two places in Great Britain where steam boats had been employed, to wit, on the river Braydon between Yarmouth and Norwich, and on the river Clyde, between Glasgow and Greenock: and at the close of his account, he mentions that he had been urging the use of this mode of conveyance for two years past, and was happy to find his recommendations realized.
By the Monthly Magazine for 1814, p. 358, it appears that the above named Mr. Ralph Dodd had succeeded in forming a company to build steam boats to be used on the Thames: and in the same page it is stated, that the Clyde steam boat had run for eighteen months past: that is, the first steam boat began to run in America under Fulton's direction in 1807, and the first steam boat began to run in Great Britain in or about the month of May in the year 1813, six years after they had been in full operation in this country; in all probability, if it had not been for Fulton's enterprize and ingenuity, Great Britain would not have had a steam boat for these twenty years to come. He showed them how to succeed. Yet is this account in Rees's Encyclopædia so drawn up, as if the whole of the invention was owing to English skill and enterprize.
"We hear much (say the editors of the Monthly Magazine for April 1813, vol. 35, page 243) of the proven success of the steam passage boats against the rapid streams of the great rivers in America: yet nothing of the kind has yet been adopted in Great Britain. Are we to succumb to America in the mechanic arts?' This was true, for the Clyde boat had not began to run when that paragraph was written, nor we believe till at least a month after it was published.
The Edinburgh review, whose editors ought to know what was going on at Glasgow and on the Clyde, contains a great deal of discussion about steam engines, and much in defence of Mr. James Watt's title to the improvements he made in that machine; anel
properly: attempts were repeatedly made to plunder that great man
The general index to the first twenty volumes of the Edinburgh
All Fulton's engines for his steam boats, are built on the principle of Boulton and Watt's engines: the steam is condensed by the injection of water, and need not be raised to sustain more than five or six pounds weight upon the square inch of the safety-valve. Fulton was decidedly convinced, that this was not only the safest, but the cheapest plan of working an engine. He was well acquainted with the high-pressure engines introduced in England by Mr. Trevethick, and in this country by Mr. Oliver Evans, and had studied them well; but they afforded no inducement to his adopting them.
The generality of steam boats, however, out of the state of New York, are now navigated by engines that work with steam of high pressure, and it will be worth while to discuss briefly the very important question, whether Fulton acted with his usual judgment, in excluding, as he did decidedly, the high-pressure engines
from his steam boats.
In the early engines of captain Savary and Newcomen, the piston being raised by means of steam let in underneath it, was permitted to fall by the pressure of the atmosphere upon its upper surface, in consequence of a vacuum being produced underneath by condensing the steam so let in this was managed by means of a jet of water thrown into the cylinder itself for that purpose. The cylinder being thus cooled at every stroke of the piston, consumed and wasted a certain quantity of steam before the next stroke took place, by condensing a part of the steam let in, until the cylinder became of the temperature of the steam itself: then, and not till then, the steam no longer condensed by the cylinder, acted by its expansive force on the piston, and raised it.
One among the many improvements of James Watt on this engine, was, to save this expenditure of steam and of time, by condensing the steam, not in the working cylinder itself, but in an iron box immersed in water, and communicating by a steam pipe with the inside of the cylinder; into which box a jet of water was thrown to condense the steam, instead of throwing it into the cylinder. It was evident that this mode of working the engine required a considerable quantity of water to supply the injection
pipe, and a well is usually dug for the purpose of affording this supply. Mr. Watt, however, was aware that situations would occur, in which this supply could not conveniently be afforded, and he accordingly provided for the case in the 4th paragraph of his original patent taken out in 1769, as may be seen by referring to the reported cases of Boulton and Watt, v. Bull. 2 Hen. Black. Rep. 463, 3 Vez. jun. 140.; and in Hornblower v. Boulton and Watt in error, 8 Durnf. and East, 95.
The engines of Boulton and Watt, however, worked so well, that nobody thought of using engines wherein the steam should be rendered very highly elastic, and be permitted to escape into the open air, till Messrs. Trevethick and Vivian, took out a patent in March 1802: they contemplated, as was well known at the time, the moving of carriages by means of steam; and as a supply of water for condensation could not be obtained in this case, and as it was a great object to lessen the weight of the machinery, their views compelled them to employ an engine, wherein the steam should be permitted to escape in the outer air, instead of being condensed by an apparatus provided for the purpose. This would not only save water, but save the weight of the condensing apparatus. The plan of propelling carriages, however, did not take with the public at that time; and Trevethick erected his engines for the common purposes of manufacture, &c. Although Trevethick did not work his engines with more than sixty lb. upon the square inch of the valve, yet two dreadful explosions of engines built on his construction, brought them into great and deserved discredit, and few of them are now used in manufactories or water works in England: still, the saving in weight, in size, and in the first expense of construction, are circumstances, that have tempted the owners of steam boats to give them occasionally a preference over Boulton and Watt's condensing engines. But the dreadful accidents that happened with high pressure engines at the tide mills in the marsh between Greenwich and Woolwich-the accident that happened from a similar cause, and with a similar engine at Constant's sugar house (Phil. Mag. Decr. 1815); the late terrible accident on board the Norwich packet on the 4th of April last, whereby nine persons were killed, and twenty wounded-besides other accidents with high pressure engines that have not found their way into the English newspapers, but are not unknown, have raised a spirit of inquiry into the propriety of suppressing these engines on board steam boats, and have turned the tide of public opinion greatly against them. We have seen Mr. Cook of Glasgow and Mr. Galloway of London, engineers of reputation, come forward decidedly in opposition to these engines, and many (now indeed most of the steam boat owners in that country who worked with high pressure engines before, have exchanged them for engines of Boulton and Watt's construction. The very able compiler of the articles Steam, Steam Engine, and Steam Boat in Dr. Rees's Encyclopædia, who may fairly be supposed in that elaborate work to express the sentiments common among the engineers of the present day, says