John Fitch's steam boat makes history

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"Plan of Mr. Fitch's Steam Boat." Wood engraving by James Trenchard. December 1786. The Columbian Magazine, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Library of Congress, via Wikimedia.

John Fitch's navigation of the first vessel ever successfully moved by steam, on the Delaware River at Philadelphia, on July 20, 1786:

Fitch's small skiff apparently did not have a name, but it was the first practical application of steam to navigation. The next year, on Aug. 22, 1787, the inventor made the first successful public demonstration of a steamboat on the Delaware in the presence of several delegates from the Constitutional Convention.

Fitch soon inaugurated the first steam ferry in the world between Philadelphia and Camden, N.J. He later began carrying passengers and freight on the Delaware to points north and south of Philadelphia, making this the first steamboat business in America.

Fitch's efforts helped pave the way for other local Pennsylvanians (William Henry, Oliver Evans, Robert Fulton, John Elgar and John Stevens) to develop steam-based transportation on water.

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