Steamboats were water vessels propelled by steam, and started to appear on western rivers in 1807. Robert Fulton built a steamboat using John Fitch’s patented version of the steam engine and became known as the “Father of Steam Navigation.”
Flatboats preceded the steamboats, and could only go downstream, with the flow of the river. Powered by steam the steamboats were far more efficient and faster and had the advantage of also being able to travel upstream. The steamboats had a steam engine that turned a paddle wheel in back of the boats.
The steamboats could travel at a speed of up to 5 miles per hour and quickly revolutionized river travel and trade, dominating the waterways of the expanding areas of the United States in the south with rivers such as the Mississippi, Alabama, Apalachicola and Chattahoochee.
Steamboats captured the imagination of the American people. They enabled relatively fast and comfortable travel across the rivers and waterways of the U.S. There were dangers to traveling by steamboat—some sank, there were boiler explosions and fires and some were attacked by Native American Indians.
Source: Steamboats of the 1800s
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