Early writers and projectors; Dr. Allen. Hulls. - Fitch. - Rumsey. - Miller. - Symington - his tirst Boat - his second, the "Charlotte Dundas." - Fulton. - Livingstone. - Fulton's boat, the "Clermont." - First voyage by steam. - Fulton not the inventor of Steam Navigation, but the first who established it. - Ordinary arrangement of Scotch steam boats. - David Napier's steam packet. - The " Enterprise's" voyage by steam to Calcutta. - Auxiliary Steamers. - Melville's auxiliary propellers applied to the "Maria," "Emerald," " Sarah Sands," "Amphion," and "Arrogant" steam frigates. Table Of dimensions of some of the largest steam vessels yet constructed.
From the immense importance of the application of the power of steam to the purposes of navigation, the honour of originating it has been as keenly contested as the invention of the steam engine itself, and it is as difficult in the one case, as in the other, to fix upon the individual to whom the palm can be justly awarded. In fact, both the steam engine, and this application of it, must each be considered as the result of successive discoveries, to which even unsuccessful attempts contributed something, by the experience acquired, and various phenomena they brought to light. We shall not, however, attempt to notice every obscure hint and crude suggestion on which claims to the merit of the invention have been advanced in favour of various individuals, but shall briefly advert to some of the leading facts in the rise and progress of this most important invention.
The first clear and distinct announcement of a practical plan for propelling vessels by steam of which we are aware, is contained in a work entitled, "Specimina Ichnographica, or a brief narrative of several new inventions," which was published by a Dr. John Allen in 1730. The first chapter describes various plans for economising fuel, by placing the furnace and flues within the boiler, so that they should be surrounded by water, as in the boilers of steam vessels of the present day. The second chapter contains a plan for moving ships in a calm. The Doctor notices several inventions which had previously been proposed for the purpose, and observes that in them "the motion was communicated by machinery working without the ship, something analogous to oars or paddles, or by the revolution of wheels turned by a capstan, placed within the ship;" on the contrary, no part of the Doctor's was placed outside of the vessel. His method was to form a tunnel or pipe, open at the stern of the vessel, and, by means of a pump, to force water or air through it into the sea; and by the reaction which this would occasion, the ship would be driven forward; thereby accurately "imitating what the Author of nature has shown us in the manner of swimming of fishes, who proceed in their progressive motion not by any vibration of their fins as oars, but by protrusion of their tails; and water-fowls swim forward by paddling with their feet behind their bodies." The Doctor carried his scheme into practice on a canal, with a boat of considerable dimensions, and worked his pumps by manual labour, but suggested the employment of a steam engine for that purpose, and its application to a vessel of 1500 tons burthen.
This project has been subsequently repeatedly proposed, and has even formed the subject of several patents, owing to the ignorance of the parties soliciting them.
We repeat that, in our opinion, this may be regarded as the first distinct announcement of a plan by which vessels would be propelled by steam. Papin had proposed a plan, but it could not be carried into effect in the imperfect state of the engine described by him; and Savery, who also suggested the application of steam to move vessels, pointed out no method in which the power of steam was to be applied. But Dr. Allen's plan only required the application of machines already known and used for other purposes, for it could have been carried into effect by either Savery's or Newcomen's engines. The mode of propelling too is extremely ingenious; and although it may not be so efficient as that at present employed, we think that in the imperfect and rude state of mechanical knowledge at that time, it would have proved in practice as effectual as any which could be suggested. It had this advantage, that it did not require the conversion of a rectilinear motion into a rotatory one; most of the modes of effecting which, then known, were extremely inconvenient.
It had also this further advantage, that the machinery was not exposed to the force of the waves or wind, and would not retard the vessel when sails alone where employed.
A few years after the publication of Dr. Allen's pamphlet, Jonathan Hulls devised a different mode for applying the power of a steam engine to navigate a vessel, and obtained a patent for the same in 1737. The letters patent, and a description of his plan, were published in a tract by Hulls, in the same year, under the following title, "A description and draught of a new invented machine for carrying vessels, or ships, out of, or into any harbour, port, or river, against wind or tide, or in a calm." His plan was to impart a rotatory movement to a paddle wheel (placed at the stern of the boat) by means of an atmospheric engine. Mr. Galloway, in his History of the Steam Engine, says that Hulls proposed to obtain a rotatory action of the wheel, from the alternating action of the engine, by means of a crank; but this is a mistake, as will be seen from the annexed sketch of his plan, which, although extremely ingenious, was certainly not so simple as the crank movement. In order to show the parts more clearly, we have drawn those wheels which are placed on the same axis of different size.-, although, in the original, they are all shown of equal size.
a b c are three wheels firmly fixed on an axis d, and e andf are two loose wheels, on another axis g; the wheels e and / have ratchets A, so that they move the axis g only when they move in a forward direction; k is an atmospheric engine, the piston of which is suspended from the wheel b; from the wheel a, a rope l proceeds to the wheel e, and a rope m proceeds in a reverse direction from the wheel c round the wheelf, and another rope attached to the wheelf, coming over the pulley n, has a weight o attached to the end of it; this weight should be a counterpoize to about one half the effective pressure upon the piston of the engine. Upon the axis g are fixed a number of arms p p, to the extremities of which are attached paddles or float boards. The descent of the piston carries round the wheels a b c in a forward direction, and the rope l drags the wheel e round in the same direction, and with it (by means of the ratchet) the axis of the paddle wheel. In the mean time the rope m has dragged the wheel f round in a reverse direction, and has raised the weight e. At the termination of the stroke of the piston, the weight o descends, and continues the rotation of the paddle wheel, and at the same time, raises the piston to the top of the cylinder.