Origin of Steam Navigation
Original Author: John Hutchings, lithographer
Created: 1846
Medium: Lithograph

Origin of Steam Navigation

This is a detail from a lithograph titled Origin of Steam Navigation, A View of Collect Pond and Its Vicinity in the City of New York in 1793. The illustration, at top, depicts an eighteen-foot-long boat powered by steam that traversed Collect Pond in lower Manhattan. The inventor of this steam engine, John Fitch, stands at the center of the boat, with one hand on the main pipe. The figures in the stern are Robert Fulton, with his arms crossed, and Robert Livingston, standing next to him. Fulton is generally credited with being the first person to create commercially successful steamships, and he was granted several state monopolies despite Fitch's early patents in the field. The figure at the bow is a young John Hutchings, who created this lithograph. Hutchings claimed to have been on board the boat as it crossed Collect Pond, and he believed that Fitch, rather than Fulton, should have been supported in his inventions. He writes: "If his country had furnished Fitch the means, we should have been blessed with Steam Navigation ten or fifteen years sooner than we were."

Hutchings signed his statement about Fitch's accomplishment and included an affidavit from Anthony Brown, an alderman in the city for a number of years, who recalled seeing the steam-powered boat crossing the pond in the 1790s. In addition, several respectable citizens signed a statement attesting to Hutchings's personal character and "veracity."

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