About the Clermont

In 1769, the Scotsman James Watt patented an improved version of the steam engine that ushered in the Industrial Revolution. The idea of using steam power to propel boats occurred to inventors soon after the potential of Watt's new engine became known. The steamboat that we know as the Clermont was built in New York in 1807, and made an historic run from New york to Albany on August 14th of that year. The boat was registered as the "North River Steam Boat of Clermont." "North River" was a common alternative name for the Hudson in the earlyrobertfultonstatue.jpg nineteenth century. The ship was generally called the Clermont after the Hudson River home of Robert Livingston. Another nickname was “Mr. Fulton’s Folly.” With this boat, Robert Fulton demonstrated to a skeptical public the technology that would set the United States on a course of industrial might and economic dominance.

Fulton's Own Description of the Clermont
“My first steamboat on the Hudson’s River was 150 feet long, 13 feet wide, drawing 2 ft. of water, bow and stern 60 degrees: she displaced 86.40 cubic feet, equal 100 tons of water; her bow presented 26 ft. to the water, plus and minus the resistance of 1 ft. running 4 miles an hour."


Length: 43 m (142 ft.)
Maximum width: 4.3 m (14 ft.)
Maximum height: 19 m (62 feet.)
Draught: 4.8 m (15 ft. 9 in.)
Displacement: 1,210 tons
Average speed: 4.7 miles per hour
Time saved: 150 miles in 32 hours
The Clermont's side paddle wheels were 4 ft. (1.2 m) wide and 15 ft. (4.6 m) in diameter.

clermont.jpgIn the “Nautical Gazette” the editor, Mr. Samuel Ward Stanton, gives the following additional details:
“The bottom of the boat was formed of yellow pine plank 1.5 in. thick, tongued and grooved, and set together with white lead. This bottom or platform was laid in a transverse platform and molded out with batten and nails. The shape of the bottom being thus formed, the floors of oak and spruce were placed across the bottom; the spruce floors being 4 x 8 inches and 2 feet apart. The oak floors were reserved for the ends, and were both sided and molded 8 inches. Her top timbers (which were of spruce and extended from a log that formed the bridge to the deck) were sided 6 inches and molded at heel, and both sided and molded 4 inches at the head. She had no guards when first built and was steered by a tiller. Her draft of water was 28 inches.”

Read more about the Clermont in Old Steamboat Days on the Hudson River, by David Lear Buckman, 1907

Historical Context

Historic first voyage of the Clermont: On Aug. 17, 1807, the steamboat started on its first successful trip 150 miles (241 kilometers) up the Hudson River from New York City to Albany, in about 30 hours, including an overnight stop. The boat was one of the first steamboats to provide regular passenger service on the Hudson.

“The power of propelling boats by steam is now fully proved. The morning I left New York there were not perhaps thirty persons in the city who believed the boat would ever move one mile an hour, or be of the least utility and while we were putting off from the wharf I heard a number of sarcastic remarks. This is the way in which ignorant men compliment what they call philosophers and projectors." Henry Hudson

After the success of the Clermont, Fulton became occupied with building and operating other boats. He also defended the monopolies that state legislatures had granted to him and Robert Livingston. Fulton designed and built a steam-powered warship, Fulton the First, for the defense of New York harbor in the War of 1812, but he died before the completion of this remarkable craft. The statue of Fulton in Statuary Hall, Washington, D.C., honors his achievements.

external image header.gif

Anniversary Celebrations
From Saturday, September 25, to Monday, October 11, 1909, the State of New York commemorated the 300th anniversary of the discovery of the Hudson River by Henry Hudson in 1609 and the 100th anniversary of the first successful application of steam to navigation upon that River by Robert Fulton in 1807. Scientific American, a magazine of technology and progress, published a special edition to commemorate this celebration. This article is taken from that edition of the Scientific American.

Important People in the life of the ship

Click on the picture of Robert Fulton to read from the biography Robert Fulton: Engineer and Artist, by H.W. Dickinson, 1913 Read more about Robert Fulton in this full-text electronic book: Robert Fulton: His Life and Its Results, by Robert H. Thurston If you are on campus, you can read an additional biographical sketch on Robert Fulton from the Dictionary of American National Biography. Click on the Picture of Robert Livingston to read about Robert Fulton's partner. If you are on campus, you can read an additional biographical sketch of Robert Livingston from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

Additional Resources

If you are on campus, you can read more about the historica importance of steam power from the Oxford Companion to United States History.
Read about the history of steam engines.
Read about How Steam Engines Work