Steamboats, also known as steamships, are a beautiful reminder of the past and are still in operation today!
Today the term steamboat usually refers to smaller boats in the USA that travel on rivers or lakes and have steam-powered engines. Steamships are larger steam-powered ships that travel across oceans.
A steamboat or steamship is a boat either powered by a paddle or a propeller that is turned by a steam engine. One of the first people to propose the idea of constructing a steamship was physicist Denis Papin. In 1707, Papin built a paddle driven steamboat. However, we don't know how it would have worked because river boatmen took it as a threat to their business and smashed it up. Then in 1784, a French nobleman named the Marquis Claude de Jouffroy d'Abbans built a steamboat that made a 15 minute trip up the Saone River. He was unable to repeat his trip. James Rumsey constructed a pump driven boat that successfully steamed up the Potamas River in 1786. In 1787, an American, John Fitch, invented the first steamboat in the United States. Its steam engine turned paddles on each side of the boat. Fitch began the nation's first commercial passenger and freight service in 1790. His steamboat traveled on the Delaware River between Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Trenton, New Jersey. Unfortunately, Fitch wasn't able to keep his business running because he didn't have enough money.
One of the first successful steamboats in the USA was The Clermont. An American named Robert Fulton designed and built the ship. The ship was able to travel up the Hudson River from New York City to Albany in about 30 hours. This included an overnight stop. This ship had side paddle wheels four feet (1.2 meters) wide and fifteen feet (4.6 meters) in diameter.
The RMS Titanic was a British steam powered passenger ship that was the largest in the world in 1912. The ship was considered unsinkable because she had sixteen water-tight compartments. This means that if a compartment flooded the others would not, and the ship would stay afloat. Actually if two compartments flooded, the ship would still stay floating. But when the Titanic went down six of the compartments were flooded. On April 14, 1912, the Titanic took her first voyage. The RMS Titanic swiped an iceberg at 11:40 p.m. The iceberg caused a number of little cracks in the ship's hull. Seawater flooded the bow of the ship. Eventually the water lifted the stern almost straight out of the water. However, the water could not hold the stern up forever and the Titanic snapped in two. The ship only had enough life boats for half the people onboard, which left the other half stranded. The captain, Edward J. Smith, went down with his ship.
The steamship that runs on a paddle wheel is called a paddle steamer. This king of steamer uses the abbreviation PS (paddle steamer). TS stands for turbine steamer. The picture to the right is the Queen Mary, a turbine steamer. A steamship that uses a turbine, turned by steam, to turn a propller or paddle is called a screw driven ship. It uses the abbreviation SS. Diesel powered vessels use MV. Sea-going steamers like the Titanic, Queen Elizabeth I, and the Queen Elizabeth II use the abbreviation RMS. All of these are British ships that are qualified to carry the mail. The RMS stands for Royal Mail Ship.
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"Steamboat." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. 14 January 2005. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page>.
Copyrighted clip art image of steamship in upper left corner of page from "Microsoft Office Online" <http://office.microsoft.com/clipart/default.aspx?lc=en-us&cag=1> (October-March, 2004-2005). Clip art available only to licensed users for non-commercial purposes.