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Robert Fulton

Robert Fulton
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Title: Robert Fulton
Release Date: 2018-08-22
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Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 27 March 2019
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[i]

TRUE STORIES OF GREAT AMERICANS

ROBERT FULTON


[ii]

Macmillan Company logo

THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
NEW YORK · BOSTON · CHICAGO · DALLAS
ATLANTA · SAN FRANCISCO

MACMILLAN & CO., Limited
LONDON · BOMBAY · CALCUTTA
MELBOURNE

THE MACMILLAN CO. OF CANADA, Ltd.TORONTO


Robert Fulton.

From a miniature owned by Mrs. R. Fulton Blight.


[iii]

ROBERT FULTON

BY
ALICE CRARY SUTCLIFFE

GREAT-GRANDDAUGHTER OF ROBERT FULTON
AUTHOR OF “ROBERT FULTON AND THE CLERMONT
AND “THE HOMESTEAD OF A COLONIAL DAME”

New York
THE MACMILLAN COMPANY
1925
All rights reserved

[iv]

PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

Copyright, 1915,
By THE MACMILLAN COMPANY.

Set up and electrotyped. Published April, 1915. ReprintedAugust, 1925.

Norwood Press
J. S. Cushing Co.—Berwick & Smith Co.
Norwood, Mass., U.S.A.


[v]

PREFACE

On board the fine passenger boat, Robert Fulton,one of the several queen steamers of the HudsonRiver Day Line, on a May morning when thebeauty of the incomparable river spread in calmperfection before contented eyes, a great-granddaughterof Robert Fulton began to write, foryoung readers, this story of the steamboat inventor’slife.

No “Hero of America” may lay more just claimto the title than Robert Fulton, the fearless, persistentlad of Pennsylvania. His boyhood of sternself-denial, his struggle for culture and advancededucation, and his constant industry place him in“the rank and file” of all students who may readthis book with the desire to learn his secret ofsuccess.

Fulton’s story reveals it. He solved problemslocked from the knowledge of man by a faithfuluse of the key of hard work. Born on a lonelyfarm in the country, deprived in early childhoodof his father’s loving care, he earned his own[vi]living and carved his path to fame and fortune.Therefore his progress is typical of possible similarachievements for all young Americans whowish to render good service to their country andto their fellow-men.

In writing the story of a man whose work forthe world has won fame, the seeker for historicfact must patiently piece together the threadsgathered from many sources to weave the fabricof connected truth.

For these facts concerning Robert Fulton’s lifeI have searched during a period extending overseveral years. In presenting this volume I desireto acknowledge my indebtedness to the severalbiographers who, during the century since hisdeath, have traced his eventful career: CadwalladerD. Colden (1817); J. Franklin Reigart (1856);Thomas W. Knox (1886); Robert H. Thurston(1891); Peyton F. Miller (1908); and, most valuablebecause most recent and therefore most comprehensive,H. W. Dickinson in “Robert Fulton,Engineer & Artist” (1913). Also am I indebtedto the Historical Societies of Chicago, New York,and Pennsylvania; the Library of Congress; theEstate of Cornelia Livingston Crary; the Hon.Peter T. Barlow; Messrs. Louis S. Clark, NewboldEdgar, Charles Henry Hart, John HenryLivingston, Robert Fulton Ludlow, Mrs. Frank[vii]Semple, and Mrs. George Montgomery, individualowners of the inventor’s original manuscriptsand letters shown at the Robert Fulton RelicExhibit, during the Hudson-Fulton Celebration of1909, gathered jointly by the New York HistoricalSociety and the Colonial Dames of America,of which latter organization the writer served aschairman of the Hudson-Fulton Committee.

From this vast mass of data is the presentmodest volume built,—a tale retold for the boysand girls of America, whose lives, through theinspiration of famous men and women, may infuture years provide records of equal worth forhistorians.

ALICE CRARY SUTCLIFFE.

New York City,November 7th, 1914.


[viii]

[ix]

CONTENTS

PAGE
CHAPTER I
An Old-time Fourth of July 1
CHAPTER II
Robert Fulton’s Boyhood 10
CHAPTER III
Painting Portraits and Miniatures 20
CHAPTER IV
The Gift of a Farm 29
CHAPTER V
Studying Art in England 37
CHAPTER VI
From Art to Invention 48
CHAPTER VII
Achievements in Paris 62
CHAPTER VIII
Building the First Submarine 73
[x]CHAPTER IX
Building the First Steamboat 84
CHAPTER X
In Holland and England 100
CHAPTER XI
Experiments with a submarine 107
CHAPTER XII
Some Early Steamboats 121
CHAPTER XIII
Building the Clermont 130
CHAPTER XIV
First Voyage of the Clermont 138
CHAPTER XV
Steamboats and Submarines 155
CHAPTER XVI
Ferry-boats and River-boats 172
CHAPTER XVII
Fulton’s Home and Fulton’s Honors 183

[xi]

LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

Robert Fulton Frontispiece
FACING PAGE
Robert Fulton’s Birthplace 8
The Building formerly occupied by Caleb Johnson’s School 34
The Washwoman; Fulton’s earliest known drawing 54
The Fulton Medal 134
The Wife and Two of the Children of Robert Fulton 184

[xii]

A child of Lancaster, upon this land
Here was he born by Conowingo’s shade;
Along these banks our youthful Fulton strayed
Dreaming of Art. Then Science touched his hand,
Leading him onward, when, beneath her wand,
Wonders appeared that never more shall fade:
He triumphed o’er the Winds and swiftly made
The giant, Steam, subservient to command.
How soft the sunlight lies upon the lea
Around his home, where boyhood days were sped!
These checkered shadows on the fading grass
Symbol his fortunes, as they fleeting pass:
“He did mankind a service,”—could there be
A tribute more ennobling to the dead!
Lloyd Mifflin.

[1]

ROBERT FULTON

CHAPTER I
An Old-time Fourth of July

American Independence was young in 1778,—onlytwo years old. The patriotism awakenedby the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia was active asthis second anniversary of our nation’s birth approached,and sturdy Pennsylvanians, glad of ourcountry’s freedom from English rule, planned aFourth of July celebration.

In Lancaster, less than seventy miles from Philadelphia,the wise men of the town council foresawwaste and tumult if the young patriots carried outthe programme they had arranged. Upon the firstday of July the Council discussed the matter andpassed this resolution, which they publicly posted:

“The Excessive Heat of the Weather, the Present Scarcityof Candles, and Other Considerations, Induce the Council toRecommend to the Inhabitants to Forbear Illuminating theCity on Saturday Evening Next, July 4th.

“By Order,

Timothy Matlack, Secretary.”

[2]

We can imagine the disappointment of the Lancasterboys when they read this notice. Angrygroups around the sign-board evinced their displeasure,and some of the bolder ones declaredthat they would light their candles anyway!

But one conscientious thirteen-year-old boytried to think of some other method to showpatriotism. As the town council forbade the useof candles, he would not disobey their law; perhapshe could prepare a more novel celebration in honorof the holiday.

He had some candles which he had saved forthe event; now they were of no use. He thereforetook them to a brush-maker who kept powderand shot for sale, and offered to trade them forgunpowder. The brush-maker, surprised thatthe boy would part with his candles when theywere so scarce, asked his reason. The lad replied:

“Our rulers have asked the people not toilluminate their windows and streets. All goodcitizens should obey law, so I have decidedinstead to light the heavens with sky-rockets.”

The dealer, although amused, was glad to getthe candles and promptly gave gunpowder in exchange.Then the boy went to another store,where he bought several large sheets of cardboard.[3]The clerk was about to roll the sheets for easyhandling, but his customer protested:

“I wish to carry them as they are.”

The curiosity of this man also was aroused.He remembered that the lad was said to be“always trying to invent something.” As hehanded them over he asked:

“What are you going to do with them?”

Eagerly the boy answered: “We are forbiddento light our windows with candles. I’m going toshoot my candles through the air.”

“Tut! Tut!” exclaimed the man, laughingly.“That’s an impossibility.”

“No, sir,” the boy responded, with a flash ofenthusiasm. “There is nothing impossible.”

This is a true story, told by an old-timeLancaster historian. The thirteen-year-old boywas Robert Fulton, who became the inventor ofsteam navigation.

It is good to carry the story further in imagination.That group of boys who gathered in the townduring the twilight of Independence Day, 1778, sawa few spluttering rockets shoot skyward from thehand of a lad determined to carry the good newsof freedom to a higher horizon than that of thehome windows of Lancaster. A flash! A whirr!and the light arose, zigzagged its message through[4]the darkness, like fiery handwriting in the sky, andthen died away. But the fine courage and courtesyof the boy who would not disobey a local law,although he felt a national appeal to patrioticjubilee,—these tokens of character have notfaded. They prophesied the boy’s success in life.He foretold it in his words, “Nothing is impossible.”

Robert Fulton’s father was one of three brothers,David, John, and Robert. They were of Scotchorigin, and came to America from Kilkenny, Ireland,about 1730. Robert, the youngest, settled inLancaster, Pennsylvania, where in 1759 he marriedMiss Mary Smith, daughter of Joseph Smith ofOxford Township, and bought for their first homea brick dwelling on the northeast corner of PennSquare, in the center of the town. In this housethey lived until 1764. They took an active interestin local affairs, for Robert Fulton belonged toevery organization then formed; to be sure, therewere only three, for the town was small.

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