The SS SAVANNAH left MAY 22, 1819, from Savannah, Georgia, and 25 days later arrived in Liverpool, England, completing the first trans-Atlantic voyage by steamship.
To pay tribute to the American Merchant Marine, President Franklin Roosevelt designated MAY 22, 1933, as National Maritime Day.
On May 20, 1986, Ronald Reagan stated:
“When steam-powered vessels began to eclipse sailing ships in the latter part of the 19th century, it was largely the result of pioneering work by two Americans, John Fitch and Robert Fulton.”
In The Thorny Road of Honor, 1856, Hans Christian Anderson wrote:
“We are in America, on the margin of one of the largest rivers, an innumerable crowd has gathered, for it is said that a ship is to sail against the wind and weather…
The man who thinks he can solve the problem is named Robert Fulton.”
Hans Christian Anderson continued:
“The ship begins its passage, but suddenly stops. The crowd begins to laugh…
Then suddenly…the wheels turn again…the ship continues its course…between the builder of the bridge and the earth – between Providence and the human race.”
Called “the father of steam navigation,” Robert Fulton wrote about his first trip from New York City to Albany on the ship “Clermont,” August 7, 1807:
“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 that the boat would ever move one mile an hour or be of the least utility; and, while we were putting off from the wharf, which was crowded with spectators, I heard a number of sarcastic remarks…
It was the early autumn of the year 1807 that a knot of villagers was gathered on a high bluff just opposite Poughkeepsie, on the west bank of the Hudson, attracted by the appearance of a strange, dark looking craft, which was slowly making its way up the river.
Some imagined it to be a sea monster, while others did not hesitate to express their belief that it was a sign of the approaching judgment. What seemed strange in the vessel was the…lofty and straight black smoke-pipes rising from the deck, instead of the gracefully tapered masts…
The working-beam and pistons and the slow turning and splashing of the huge and naked paddle-wheels met the astonished gaze. The dense clouds of smoke, as they rose wave upon wave, added still more to the wonderment of the rustics.”
Reagan said June 11, 1981:
“The future has always looked bleak til people with brains and faith…found a way to make it better, people like Robert Fulton.”
William J. Federer is a nationally known speaker, best-selling author, and president of Amerisearch, Inc., a publishing company dedicated to researching America’s noble heritage.
To learn more visit William Federer
Featured image: 1819: The SS Savannah becomes the first steamship to cross the Atlantic Ocean via TJEd.