ROBERT FULTON was the man who set steamboats to running on the
rivers. Other men had made such boats before. But Fulton made the
first good one.
When he was a boy, he lived in the town of
Pennsylvania. Many guns were made in Lancaster. The men who made
these guns put little pictures on them. That was to make them sell to
the hunters who liked a gun with pictures. Little Robert Fulton could
draw very well for a boy. He made some pretty little drawings. These
the gun makers put on their guns.
 Fulton went to the gun shops a great deal. He liked to see how things
were made. He tried to make a small air gun for himself.
He was always trying to make things. He got some
quicksilver. He was
trying to do something with it. But he would not tell what he wanted
to do. So the
gunsmiths called him
He was so much interested in such things, that he sometimes
neglected his lessons. He said that his head was so full of new
notions, that he had not much room left for school learning.
One morning he came to school late.
"What makes you so late?" asked the teacher.
"I went to one of the shops to make myself a lead pencil," said little
Bob. "Here it is. It is the best one I ever had."
The teacher tried it, and found it very good. Lead pencils in that day
were made of a long piece of lead sharpened at the end.
Quicksilver Bob was a very odd little boy. He said many
curious things. Once the teacher punished him for not getting his lessons. He
rapped Robert on the knuckles with a
ferule. Robert did not like this
any more than any other boy would.
"Sir," said the boy, "I came here to have something beaten into my
head, not into my knuckles."
In that day people used to light candles and stand
 them in the window
on the Fourth of July. These candles in every window lighted up the
whole town. But one year candles were scarce and high. The city asked
the people not to light up their windows on the Fourth.
Bob did not like to miss the fun of his Fourth of July. He went to
work to make something like rockets or Roman candles. It was a very
dangerous business for a boy.
"What are you doing, Bob?" some one asked him.
"The city does not want us to burn our candles on the Fourth," he
said. "I am going to shoot mine into the air."
He used to go fishing with a boy named Chris Gumpf. The father of
Chris went with them. They fished from a flat boat. The two boys had
to push the boat to the fishing place with poles.
 "I am tired of poling that boat," said Robert to Chris one day when
they came home.
So he set to work to think out a plan to move the boat in an easier
way than by poles. He whittled out the model of a tiny paddle wheel.
Then he went to work with Chris Gumpf, and they made a larger paddle
wheel. This they set up in the fishing boat. The wheel was turned by
the boys with a crank. They did not use the poles any more.