Profile of the Day: John Fitch
Have you ever ridden on a steamboat? On August 26, 1791, inventor John Fitch was granted a U.S. patent for the steamboat. Fitch was born January 21, 1743 on a farm that is part of present-day South Windsor, Connecticut. He served briefly during the American Revolution, working mostly as a gunsmith for the New Jersey militia.
By 1785, Fitch began working on ideas for a steam-powered boat. Two years later, he successfully demonstrated his steamboat on the Delaware River for delegates from the Constitutional Convention. He went on to build a larger steamboat which carried passengers and freight between Philadelphia and Burlington, New Jersey.
Propelled by steam-powered paddles, Fitch’s steamboat was a remarkable advancement in early transportation in America. However, marred by patent disputes and the lost of investors, Fitch was unable to reap any success from his invention and took his own life in 1798. It wasn’t until two decades later that inventor Robert Fulton was able to make Fitch’s idea profitable.
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