“Fulton’s Folly” Makes First Commercially Successful Steamboat Voyage 

“Fulton’s Folly” Makes First Commercially Successful Steamboat Voyage 

U.S. #372 – At the time of its launch, the boat was known as the North River Steamboat. The name Clermont likely came from Robert Livingston’s estate where the ship stopped on its maiden voyage.

At the behest of his critics, Robert Fulton launched his steamboat from New York harbor on August 17, 1807.

Robert Fulton had begun his career as an artist. While studying in Europe, he realized his ambitions might not be fruitful and began exploring another passion – engineering. He then designed an experimental submarine that impressed American ambassador Robert Livingston, who encouraged Fulton to start designing steamboats.

In the early 1800s, steamboats were often considered dangerous and nothing more than a novelty. But Fulton believed it could prove to be a successful business venture, and built a 150-foot-long ship that would make him famous. Critics dubbed the boat “Fulton’s Folly,” believing it wouldn’t make the trip.

U.S. #1270

On the afternoon of August 17, 1807, Fulton and a group of passengers boarded his ship (later named the Clermont) in New York City, bound for Albany, 150 miles up the Hudson River. Shortly after leaving the dock, the boat stopped suddenly. Passengers and spectators willingly shared their doubt in the boat’s abilities. Fulton calmly went below the deck, found the problem, and easily fixed it. The boat then chugged along at a leisurely five miles per hour without any other incidents. They arrived in Albany (after a stopover at Livingston’s home, Clermont) in a record 32 hours.

While many had their doubts, Fulton proved the commercial viability of steam boats, which would rule American waterways for the next half-century.

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17 responses to "“Fulton’s Folly” Makes First Commercially Successful Steamboat Voyage "

17 thoughts on ““Fulton’s Folly” Makes First Commercially Successful Steamboat Voyage ”

  1. Oh, oh love the daily US postage stamp history – I certainly endorse a book of 365 pages + the picture of every stamp daily stamp and maybe even a blank space on every page for the book owner to place in the real stamp…an album, a history (science, medicine, military, health, sports, people etc.) and a calendar of every day of a full year.

  2. Yesterday I was in Bennington, Vermont. When I got home I read about that town at this site. Now a day later, I am reading about steam ships and Albany, where I live. What fun and interesting connections! Thank you Mystic.

  3. Here again from this history piece, I learn why the issue is often referred to as the Hudson-Fulton issue. Thank you for helping me continue to learn. Roll on!

  4. “This Day In History” This is the BEST new feature I have seen for many many years. Look forward to it every day. Would make a great daily teaching tool for teachers.

  5. i am just starting to collect stamps.My mother in law left me her collection plus about 50 years ago a friend gave me a bunch of mint plates blocks.Her husband worked for the US post office for a long time.I was 20 at the time and she was in her eighty’s


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