Dubuque County Historical Society Images

The Builders

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John Fitch

John Fitch was an inventor and mechanic who pioneered the practicality of steam navigation by building the first serviceable steamboat twenty years before Robert Fulton's, Clermont. Fitch's first steamboat was successfully launched and operated on the Delaware River before a group of delegates to the Constitutional Convention at Philadelphia. Then Fitch launched a 60-foot paddlewheel steamboat and operated a third and larger boat on the Delaware River. Fitch was granted a U. S. patent for the invention of his steamboat in 1791.



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