An apocryphal story from 1851 attributes the earliest steamboat to Denis Papin for a boat he built in 1705. Papin was an early innovator in steam power and the inventor of the steam digester, the first pressure cooker, which played an important role in James Watt's steam experiments. However, Papin's boat was not steam-powered but powered by hand-cranked paddles.
A steamboat was described and patented by English physician John Allen in 1729. In 1736, Jonathan Hulls was granted a patent in England for a Newcomen engine-powered steamboat (using a pulley instead of a beam, and a pawl and ratchet to obtain rotary motion), but it was the improvement in steam engines by James Watt that made the concept feasible. William Henry of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, having learned of Watt's engine on a visit to England, made his own engine, and put it in a boat. The boat sank, and while Henry made an improved model, he did not appear to have much success, though he may have inspired others.
The first steam-powered ship Pyroscaphe was a paddle steamer powered by a Newcomen steam engine; it was built in France in 1783 by Marquis Claude de Jouffroy and his colleagues as an improvement of an earlier attempt, the 1776 Palmipède. At its first demonstration on 15 July 1783, Pyroscaphe travelled upstream on the river Saône for some fifteen minutes before the engine failed. Presumably this was easily repaired as the boat is said to have made several such journeys.[self-published source?] Following this, De Jouffroy attempted to get the government interested in his work, but for political reasons was instructed that he would have to build another version on the Seine in Paris. De Jouffroy did not have the funds for this, and, following the events of the French revolution, work on the project was discontinued after he left the country.[self-published source?]
Similar boats were made in 1785 by John Fitch in Philadelphia and William Symington in Dumfries, Scotland. Fitch successfully trialled his boat in 1787, and in 1788, he began operating a regular commercial service along the Delaware River between Philadelphia and Burlington, New Jersey, carrying as many as 30 passengers. This boat could typically make 7 to 8 miles per hour (11 to 13 km/h) and travelled more than 2,000 miles (3,200 km) during its short length of service. The Fitch steamboat was not a commercial success, as this travel route was adequately covered by relatively good wagon roads. The following year, a second boat made 30-mile (48 km) excursions, and in 1790, a third boat ran a series of trials on the Delaware River before patent disputes dissuaded Fitch from continuing.
Meanwhile, Patrick Miller of Dalswinton, near Dumfries, Scotland, had developed double-hulled boats propelled by manually cranked paddle wheels placed between the hulls, even attempting to interest various European governments in a giant warship version, 246 feet (75 m) long. Miller sent King Gustav III of Sweden an actual small-scale version, 100 feet (30 m) long, called Experiment. Miller then engaged engineer William Symington to build his patent steam engine that drove a stern-mounted paddle wheel in a boat in 1785. The boat was successfully tried out on Dalswinton Loch in 1788 and was followed by a larger steamboat the next year. Miller then abandoned the project.
In 1787, John Fitch demonstrated a working model of the steamboat concept on the Delaware River. The first truly successful design appeared two decades later. It was built by Robert Fulton with the assistance of Robert R. Livingston, the former U.S. minister to France.
Ohio River had been traversed by different types of boats in 1826.Steam engine boats were used at 1826 on was called Tecumseh.
Occasionally, early writers recorded such details in a source that has survived, generally accounts written by elderly rivermen who served on a vessel and thought its history was worth remembering. This was true for the steamer Tecumseh. In the June 10, 1869, issue of the Cincinnati Commercial appeared a short item reprinted from the St. Louis Republican referencing a lithograph of Tecumseh, drawn by A. McLean of that city and published by Wolff and Haynes from a painting owned by the St. Louis Pilots’ Association. (Fig. 1) The news item listed a number of details about the boat and its crew. Three days later, a correction appeared in the Commercial written by a correspondent who signed himself “N.” His personal recollection of Tecumseh suggests he may have been part of its crew. He also noted that the boat’s original clerk lived near Cincinnati.1 Six months later, N submitted a more detailed account of this pioneer riverboat . Published in two parts in the Commercial on January 8 and 10, 1870, the article roundly criticized the inaccuracies of the St. Louis article. Among others, that the surname of the boat’s builder was Stephen Weeks (the previous article had identified him as Wix) and the 1869 lithograph was a poor likeness of Tecumseh. (In truth, N might here have been too critical, for except for a few details it agrees with a second likeness of the vessel. See Fig. 2) N went on to claim that while still in service a French artist had drawn a portrait of the boat at the request of its clerk, Ira Athearn. Athearn gave the drawing to a friend of the boat’s A Portrait of the 1826 Steamboat Tecumseh A PORTRAIT OF THE 1826 STEAMBOAT TECUMSEH 60 OHIO VALLEY HISTORY captain, who lived in Shippingport, Kentucky, near Louisville. Athearn could not remember the man’s name, but N believed it might have been Sam McKenzie. At the time of N’s recollection, the location of the painting was unknown. The input of Thomas J. Weeks, the son of the boat’s builder, and who helped to build the hull, was essential to N’s contentions.2 In 1826 Cincinnati was yet far from being the West’s Queen City. It was in many ways a provincial frontier outpost. Incorporated only seven years earlier, the city’s population was then fourteen thousand. It boasted a college, orphan asylum, museum, and contained around 2,500 buildings, the best of which were four-story brick. It had neither city hall nor bridge spanning the Ohio. The water works was privately owned and depended on wooden pipes for delivery purposes. At the same time, Cincinnati was a fine place for business and many enterprising men were coming west to make their fortunes. Among these ambitious individuals were Stephen Weeks and his sons, Harry, John, Thomas, and Sylvester,3 who established their boat yard in Fulton on the bank of the Ohio River about threequarters of a mile east of Broadway Street. When they commenced their operation in the early 1820s, the steamboat trade was in its infancy and the demand for new boats was limitless. Not surprisingly, competition was strong, and new boat yards already lined the riverbank in Fulton. Such competition kept prices low. Figure 1. Steamboat Tecumseh. This photograph shows the early lithograph of collapse Tecumseh known to be...
Another one was called George Washington . Wikipedia falsely place the launch of this boat in 1908.