Last Updated 13 Oct 2018

John Fitch

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John Fitch was a great inventor and his ideas helped us today. He also was a clockmaker and bronze smith. He invented the first steamboat and the steam locomotive railway. Here are some facts on John Fitch inventions. John Fitch was born in Windsor, Connecticut on a farm. This farm is part of present day South Windsor, Connecticut. He had schooling from a clockmaker. Opened a brass and silversmith business in Trenton, New Jersey and succeeded until the American Revolution. In addition, he served the army for a short time and then started a gun factory. He also considered selling tobacco and beer to the continental army.

After this he was surveying the Northwest Territories he was captured by Indians. Later was turned in to the British. British then released him and he started working designing steam powered ship. He was unable to get funds from the Continental Congress, so he found new investors and persuaded them. These investors gave him a 14 year monopoly. John Fitch saw some British steam engines drawings. But he had to build his own steam engine because he lacked money and was too difficult. John Fitch built many successful models with the help of Henry Voight. Henry Voight was a watchmaker; he constructed a 45 foot steamboat.

The first trial run of this steamboat was in the Delaware River. The delegates of the Constitutional Convention were there to see the trial run. John Fitch constructed four different steamboats between 1785 and 1796 that successfully plied rivers and lakes. John Fitch demonstrated the feasibility of using steam for water locomotion. His models utilized various combinations of propulsive force, including ranked paddles, paddle wheels, and screw propellers. This steamboat was propelled by oars on the sides. The following years John Fitch build a 60 foot steamboat. It was powered by a steam engine that drove several stern mounted oars.

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This ship carried up to 30 passengers to round trip voyages. It went between Philadelphia and Burlington, New Jersey. After this invention John Fitch was granted a patent after the battle with James Rumsey. James Rumsey had an invention that was similar to John Fitch’s invention. Unfortunately the patent commission did not award the broad monopoly John Fitch asked for. But the patent did award James Rumsey and John Stevens for their Steamboat designs. This caused John Fitch to lose his monopoly and investors leaving his company. Although his steamboats still worked and run successfully.

He did not focus on the construction and the operating cost. He did not have the chance to explain the economic benefits of steam navigation. Later on John Fitch’s ideas was turned profitable by Robert Fulton. Although, Robert Fulton got a patent from New York because of his partner’s powerful influence Robert Livingston, Robert Fulton was unable to get a patent from the US patent. He was unable to do this because one of John Fitch’s companies, William Thornton was the clerk of the patent office and bitterly opposed him. But John Fitch had a patent from France and was credited more than Robert Fulton for the invention of the steamboat.

In addition, John Fitch invented the steam railroad locomotive in 1780. He showed a little of his model to the president George Washington and his cabinet in Philadelphia. In Ohio Historical Society Museum still has a model of the railroad locomotive. John Fitch was eager to work with rail locomotive, but soon his ideas were forgotten. Without John Fitch contributions to the steamboat and the steam railroad locomotive we would not have ships. John Fitch was a great American inventor that was ignored. He was ignored because the investors didn’t give him the patent he asked for.

In 1802, the Englishman Richard Trevithick invented a full-size steam locomotive. This locomotive would soon haul the world's first locomotive-hauled railway train, and within a short time the British invention led to the development of actual railways. Americans ignorance of John Fitch's pioneering invention a quarter of a century earlier, began importing English locomotives and copying them. Many of John Fitch’s ideas were copied and they get all the credit, because he lacked money to pay for a company. A memorial to John Fitch stands in Bardstown, Kentucky's Courthouse Square.

Here he lies with complete replica of his first steamboat. John Fitch Monument also stands in Warminster Township, Pennsylvania at the spot he first developed the idea for a steamboat. John Fitch High School was built on Bloomfield Avenue in Windsor, Connecticut in the 1934. It became an elementary school in the 1950s. The building was converted to elderly housing in the 1990s, but its facade still bears John Fitch's name and likeness carved in stone. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Sources 1) Encyclopedia 2) About. com 3) Google 4) Ask. com 1. njlh 2. jjn

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John Fitch. (2018, Oct 13). Retrieved from

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