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Stevens, John 1749-1838

Inventor; born in New York City, in 1749; graduated at King's College (now Columbia University) in 1768; and studied law, but never practised. Seeing John Fitch's steamboat on the “Collect” in New York in 1787, he became interested in the subject of steamboat navigation, and experimented for nearly thirty years. He unsuccessfully petitioned the legislature of New York for the exclusive navigation of the waters of the State. He built a propeller in 1804—a small open boat worked by steam. It was so successful that he built the Phoenix, a steamboat completed soon after Fulton and Livingston had set the Clermont afloat. The latter having obtained the exclusive right to navigate the waters of New York, Stevens placed his boats on the Delaware and Connecticut rivers. In 1812 he published a pamphlet urging the United States government to make experiments in railways traversed by carriages propelled by steam, and proposed the construction of a railway for such a purpose from Albany to Lake Erie. This was nearly a quarter of a century before such a work was accomplished. He died in Hoboken, N. J., March 6, 1838.

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