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A New Nation
(1776-1830)

Robert Fulton and the Steamboat



Robert Fulton and the Steamboat
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 4 to 6
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   5.99

Vocabulary
     challenging words:    demonstration, explanation, vision, regularly, version, further, upstream, hull, region, design, paddle, painter, development, powerful, traveled, goods
     content words:    Robert Fulton, Seine River, North River Steamboat, On August, New York City, New York, Mississippi River, Middle America, Gulf Coast


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Robert Fulton and the Steamboat
By Jane Runyon
  

1     Robert Fulton was a man of vision. He became interested in the possibilities that a steamboat could create from a very early age. He was born in Pennsylvania in 1765. The story is told that he visited a family friend in 1777, and that is where his interest in steamboats began. He would have been only twelve years old. The Fulton's family friend had visited England. While he was there, he saw a demonstration of a new invention. It was a steam engine developed by a man named Watt. When he returned from England, he made his own version of the engine. His idea was to put it into a boat.
 
2     Why would anyone want to put a steam engine into a boat? Maybe this explanation will help. Can you whistle? What is it that makes the whistling sound? It is air being forced through your lips. Have you ever heard a tea kettle whistle? What makes that whistling sound? Boiling water has turned to steam and that steam is forcing its way through the top of the kettle. It has quite a force. It doesn't stop when it runs out of breath like your whistle does. As long as the water is boiling and steam is being produced, that energy will last. If you have ever tried to move an object upstream against a current of water, you know that it would take a lot of energy. Inventors reasoned that if they could invent a powerful enough steam engine, they would be able to move boats up the rivers against the current as well as down with the current.
 
3     Robert Fulton grew up to be a talented painter. He even went to Paris, France, to study art. He didn't forget his fascination with the steam engine. While studying in Europe, Fulton was able to see firsthand many of the experiments other inventors were doing with the steam engine. He developed their inventions even further by experimenting with submarines and torpedoes. This was back in 1783! His desire to create a boat powered by steam that could be used to carry goods against a river current completely overshadowed his interest in art. By 1803, he had successfully designed a steamboat that sailed up the Seine River in France against the current.

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A New Nation
(1776-1830)

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