| Builders of Our Country: Book II|
|by Gertrude van Duyn Southworth|
| A lively account of American history told through 31 biographies, beginning with Patrick Henry at the start of the Revolution and ending with Andrew Carnegie at the close of the 19th century. The biographies are so chosen as to acquaint the reader with the chief personages and events in our national life, by including many vivid pictures of each. Ages 10-12 |
TRAVEL BY WATER IN COLONIAL DAYS
 THERE was a time long, long ago when America was like
the land of fairy tales "where no one lived but a strange
people and many animals." The strange people who lived
in America were the red-skinned Indians. And it was to
their land of forest wastes that the early colonists came.
These colonists must have been lonely indeed as they
stood on the shore and watched the ship that had brought
them fade away in the distance, bound for home. There
must have been a great longing in their hearts for the time
when the ship would come again, bringing other colonists
and news of far-away friends. And perhaps there was fear,
too, of days when they might watch anxiously for a ship
bearing fresh supplies. What more natural than that they
should build their homes near the coast or on some navigable
river, where ships from home could easily come to them?
As other colonists came, they, too, for the same reasons,
settled near the shore. Moreover, if a man from one
settlement wished to visit another, clearly he must go by
land or water. If he went by land, there was greater
danger from Indians, and he must travel through the
rough forest, guided only by the blazed trees that marked
the way. To go by water was a far simpler matter.
So it was that colonial towns grew up along the Atlantic
coast, or on the shores of some stream that ran into the sea.
 The small boats of these pioneer settlers were for the
most part canoes copied after those of the Indians. There
were two ways in which the Indians made canoes. One
was by hollowing out a great pine or cedar log. This was
done either by burning the wood, or by chipping away piece
after piece with some sharp tool. The other form of Indian
canoe was a light framework covered with birch bark.
As time went on the settlers built small boats of other
kinds, and vessels large enough for ocean use. These last
were all sailing vessels, and the best of them took weeks
and sometimes months to cross the sea. Slow as they were,
the sailing vessels were the only means of ocean travel for
many years after the founding of the American colonies.
The world of long ago wasted time and strength in
slow, tedious travel. So, too, its people were handicapped
in endless directions by their lack of knowledge of steam
and electricity and the uses to which they could be put.
It is the proud boast of America that to her citizens
are due many of the inventions and discoveries that have
changed the clumsy methods of long ago into the effective
ways of to-day. Among this number stands Robert Fulton.
THE BOY FULTON
ROBERT FULTON was born in a Pennsylvania village, in
1765. When he went to school his schoolmaster found it
 hard work to keep the boy's attention. He did not
appear interested in the lessons set before him, but liked
much better to spend his time
drawing pictures with pencils
that he had hammered out of
pieces of lead.
However, Fulton was far
from being stupid. He had
ideas of his own, and good ones.
Shortly before the 4th of
July, 1778, the people of Fulton's town stopped as they went
along the street to read a public
notice. The notice said that inasmuch as candles were at
present very scarce, the citizens were requested not to illuminate
their houses that year in celebration of Independence Day.
This was a bitter disappointment to Robert, who was
full of patriotism and eager to express it. He simply could
not have the streets dark on the Fourth of July. So he
bought some gunpowder and pasteboard, and went to
Fourth of July came, and he was ready for it. He had
made some sky rockets, which not only illuminated the
town but surprised and astonished all the people.
When young Fulton and his friends went fishing, they
went in a heavy, flat-bottomed boat, which had to be
poled along from place to place. As this was slow and
rather hard work, Robert made a pair of paddle wheels,
one of which was fastened to each side of the boat. They
were turned by a crank and were far easier to manage
than the long poles whose place they took.
POLING A FLAT-BOTTOMED BOAT.
But while Fulton enjoyed making all sorts of things,
he still took chief pleasure in drawing and painting. And
 when he was seventeen years old he went to Philadelphia
to take up the life of an artist.
SOON after Fulton became of age his friends began to
urge him to go abroad, as in Europe he could learn to do
better work and could win a wider reputation as an artist
than in America.
The voyage was made in a sailing vessel. Now and
again a fair wind filled the sails, and the ship made good
headway. Then came days of calm when the vessel
rocked to and fro on the waves and drifted idly. It
seemed a long journey. At last England was reached,
and Robert Fulton went to London.
For a while he devoted his time to art, but gradually
his love for invention grew upon him and enticed him more
and more away from his painting. During his stay in
England he invented several useful machines. Idea
At length he went to France and, while in that country,
made a diving boat that would move about under the
water. This diving boat was to carry torpedoes, one of
which could be fastened to the bottom of a ship so that,
when it exploded, it would blow the ship to pieces.
Fulton thought that such a boat would be a mighty
protection to a country with a weak navy. Should an
enemy's warship on mischief bent enter a harbor, down
could go the diving boat with its torpedo; and in no time
the dangerous visitor would be a hopeless wreck. But in
spite of the inventor's belief in his boat, he could induce
neither England nor France to adopt it for her navy.
Another thing that Robert Fulton tried to do while in
France was to make a boat that would run by steam.
 Others had already attempted to do this, but with very
indifferent success. Fulton remembered that old
flat-boat to which he had fastened the paddle wheels. Why
not try the same plan on a large boat and make a steam
engine turn the crank?
At that time Robert R. Livingston was America's
minister to France. He grew so interested in Fulton's
scheme that he offered to furnish the money necessary to
carry it out.
When the boat was finished it was launched on the
river Seine. Fulton was well pleased; but just as the day—
of its trial trip was at hand, the boat broke in two and
sank. The machinery had proved too heavy for so light
a framework. A stronger one was made; but now the
engine was not powerful enough to move the boat with
Still Fulton was not discouraged. In 1806 he and
Mr. Livingston went to New York, determined to try their
luck once more.
The building of their boat was soon under way, and
almost every day saw Fulton down at the shipyards
directing just how it should be done. He named the boat
the Clermont, which was the name of Mr. Livingston's
home on the Hudson. Others called it "Fulton's Folly,"
so absurd did it seem even to try to make steam run a
boat. Out of sheer curiosity, men visited the shipyards
to look at "Fulton's Folly"; and they spoke of it with
scorn and ridicule.
It was August, 1807, when the Clermont was done,
and her owners invited their friends to join them on a
trip up the Hudson.
So Fulton really thought that boat would go! It was
too ridiculous. Great crowds gathered to see the fun of
the start, which they felt would be no start at all. Even
 the invited guests stepped to the Clermont's deck with
grave misgivings. No one enjoys being in an absurd
position, and this certainly looked like one.
The signal was given. The side wheels began to churn
the water, and—wonder of wonders!—the Clermont moved
steadily away from the dock.
A great cheer rose from the amazed crowd on the shore.
But it died again as quickly as it rose. The boat had
stopped. Now indeed the guests on board wished themselves
out of their predicament. Why had they come?
They knew all the time just how it would be.
Fulton frankly admitted that he did not know what
was wrong. But he asked his passengers to give him half
an hour in which to set things right. He promised that,
if he could not start the boat in thirty minutes, he would
give up the trip and put his guests ashore. Then, hurrying
to his engine, he looked it over anxiously. The
trouble was only a small matter, and in a few moments
Fulton's skilled fingers had made the needed readjustment.
Again the Clermont started, and this time she steamed
 straight up the Hudson. All the rest of that day and all
that night she went on and on toward Albany.
Fishermen in their boats, sailors on sailing vessels, watchers on
the shore heard the strange sound of the Clermont's engine,
and saw the smoke pouring from her stack. All were
filled with wonder, and many were overcome with terror.
To Albany and back the Clermont went, covering the
distance of one hundred and fifty miles between Albany
and New York in thirty-two hours. This was only the
first of many trips she made up and down the Hudson,
Robert Fulton was now a great man. He had
succeeded where all had expected failure; he had made a boat
that would go in spite of wind or tide. And more than
that. He had found the means for the better, quicker
water travel which our country needed. Before many
years steamboats were running on the Mississippi and the
Missouri rivers and on the Great Lakes. The great west
lay open to emigrants, and Robert Fulton had furnished
a way for them to go there.
The first steamboat to cross the Atlantic sailed from
an American port in 1819. This was the Savannah and it
took her twenty-six days to go from Georgia to Liverpool,
The record for Atlantic travel between Queenstown
and New York to-day is five days and a few hours. Seven
hundred and ninety feet long by eighty-eight feet wide
are the dimensions of the two largest ocean steamers now
afloat. Each is built to carry two thousand two hundred
passengers, besides its crew.
Do the passengers, living for a few days in all the
luxury and comfort of a modern ocean palace, realize that
only a century lies between Fulton's ungainly little Clermont
and the stately steamships that sail the seas to-day?
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