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Or, more correctly, the ‘North River Steamboat of Clermont’, is generally acknowledged as the world's first commercially successful steamboat, though the one John Fitch (1743–98) built in 1788, which made regular scheduled trips on the Delaware River, was no failure. Built in 1807, the Clermont was a joint venture between two Americans, Robert Livingston (1746–1813), from whose home at Clermont, NY, this early paddle steamer derived its name, and its designer, the engineer Robert Fulton. In 1803, while Livingston, a politician of note, was in Paris negotiating the Louisiana Purchase, the two men demonstrated a small paddle steamer on the River Seine, and with Livingston having been granted a monopoly of steam navigation on all waters with the state boundaries of New York, the two joined forces to exploit this as yet unproved method of transport.

Their paddle steamer was built on the East Hudson River, New York City, by Charles Brown, but the engine was made in Britain by Boulton and Watt of Birmingham, as no engineers in the USA had at that time sufficient experience to build an engine suitable for ship propulsion. The engine had a single vertical cylinder, 61 centimetres (24 in.) in diameter with a stroke of 122 centimetres (48 in.), which drove a pair of 4.6-metre (15-ft) paddle wheels, one on each side of its hull, through bell cranks and spur gearing. The North River Steamboat had an overall length of 40.5 metres (133 ft) and a displacement (see tonnage) of 100 tons. On its initial trip it steamed up the river to Albany and back, a distance of about 384 kilometres (240 mls.), in 62 hours. This gave it an average speed of just over 6 kph (3.8 mph), but in a run from Livingston's home to Albany against the flow of the river it made 8 kph (5 mph), rather higher than the terms of Livingston's monopoly required. After considerable alterations, which virtually made it a new boat, it was registered in 1808 as the ‘North River Steamboat of Clermont’—quickly shortened by the press to Clermont—and it subsequently ran regularly between Albany and New York City.

Subjects: Maritime History.

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