The Youth’s Temperance Lecturer didn’t last long, but it made an impression on editors of other periodicals, who reprinted various pieces. “Robert Fulton” was reprinted in the Youth’s Companion as a “Biography.” But it’s less information about Robert Fulton’s life than it is a general timeline of discoveries about steam power and a little life advice. The author’s memories of reactions to Fulton’s experiments is an interesting layer of social history; given that the author is young when Fulton is developing his boat, the piece may be by William Goodell, editor of the Lecturer, who was born in rural New York in 1792.


http://www.merrycoz.org/yc/Fultonytl.xhtml
“Robert Fulton” (reprinted from Youth’s Temperance Lecturer; from Youth’s Companion, December 26, 1832; p. 125)

Little Children! Did you never hear about Robert Fulton?—Well, sit still, and listen, while I tell you something about him. You have heard of steam boats. Many of you, I dare say, have seen them; and some of my little readers have travelled in them, on the water.—Perhaps you never thought to ask who it was that first found out how to make steam boats. Very likely you did not think but that people had always known how to make them. But it is not so. The way of making them has only been known a few years. I can very well remember when there was not a single steam boat in all the world.—Robert Fulton first contrived them; and I will tell you something about the way in which it happened. Many years ago, there was another man who found out something about steam, and its power, or strength to move things. He saw a tea-kettle boiling, and noticed that the steam made the lid or cover of the kettle rise up from its place. Then he thought what force there must be in the steam; and he thought that if a little steam would move the kettle cover, then a great deal of steam would move a great deal of iron. So he made a great machine, that is, wheels, &c., of iron, fixed so as to be moved by steam, and this was the first steam engine.—Others were then made, and used for different purposes, but none to move boats. This man’s name was Watt, and he lived in England. Another man, in France, tried to fix steam engines in such a manner as to move boats, but he did not find out how to do it. Then Robert Fulton thought he would try. Robert Fulton lived in America, our own country, and for some time in the city of New-York, I believe.—I remember very well when I was a little lad, and lived in the country, and was about old enough to drive away the cows, and rake after the cart, in the hay season, I used to be very fond of reading the newspaper which the post rider brought along, once a week. And I remember the paper used to tell about one Robert Fulton, who was trying to make a boat go with steam, without wind or sails. And the man that made the newspaper thought Mr. Fulton was a great fool, to think of such a thing as to “make a vessel go, by boiling a tea-kettle on board,” as he called it. Nearly all the newspapers made fun of it, and the people all over the country laughed at it. But after a while, Mr. Fulton made his boat go with steam, sure enough; and then the people thought him a wise man, for his skill and perseverance, and thought themselves foolish for laughing at him.

Mr. Fulton is now dead; and though he found out a way to help other people get rich, I believe he left little property for his children. Something ought to be done, to pay them for their father’s labor and skill.

You may learn something from this story.

1st. Always notice every thing you can see, and think of what you see. Tens of thousands of people had seen a tea-kettle boil, though but one, that we know of, ever learned by it how to use steam power.

2d. When you see what others have contrived, see if you cannot contrive it better. This is what Fulton did.

3d. Do not suppose that nothing can be done, except that which has been done. Most people make this mistake, and, therefore, do not try to any thing great and new.

4th. Do not be discouraged about doing a thing, because somebody else has tried, and has not done it—nor because you have tried yourself, and been disappointed. If Mr. Fulton had done so, there would have been no steam boats.—But he knew better. He had to try a godo many times. But at last he succeeded.

5th. never laugh at people for trying to do good. And never take any notice of those who may be foolish enough to laugh at you, when you are trying.

6th. Expect, if you live, to see a great many new things that your fathers never saw. Many new things are contrived and done now a days. The world has never been cleared of strong drink, and many other evils, yet. But that is no sign that it never will be done.

7th. Learn to value men according to the good they do.—If this rule had been properly followed, such a man as Fulton would never have been so poorly repaid for his services, while other men are praised and honored, only because they contrived mischief, and killed many people in battle.

Copyright 1999-2020, Pat Pflieger
To “Nineteenth-Century American Children & What They Read
Some of the children | Some of their books | Some of their magazines
To “Voices from 19th-Century America
Some works for adults, 1800-1872
To Titles at this site | Authors at this site | Subjects at this site | Works by date | Map of the site

Talk to me.