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American History
3.5 Steam Boat

But Robert Fulton and Mr. Livingston both believed that a steamboat could be built that would go, and that would keep going. So they went to New York and built one there. In the summer of 1807 a great crowd gathered to see the boat start on her voyage up the Hudson River. They joked and laughed as crowds will at anything new. They called Fulton a fool and Livingston another. But when Fulton, standing on the deck of his steamboat, waved his hand, and the wheels began to turn, and the vessel began to move up the river, then the crowd became silent with astonishment. Now it was Fulton's turn to laugh, and in such a case the man who laughs last has a right to laugh the loudest. Up the river Fulton kept going. He passed the Palisades; he passed the Highlands; still he kept on, and at last he reached Albany, a hundred and fifty miles above New York. Nobody before had ever seen such a sight as that boat moving up the river without the help of oars or sails; but from that time people saw it every day. When Fulton got back to New York in his steamboat, everybody wanted to shake hands with him—the crowd, instead of shouting fool, now whispered among themselves, He's a great man—a very great man, indeed.

Four years later Fulton built a steamboat for the west. In the autumn of 1811 it started from Pittsburg to go down the Ohio River, and then down the Mississippi to New Orleans. The people of the west had never seen a steamboat before, and when the Indians saw the smoke puffing out, they called it the "Big Fire Canoe." On the way down the river there was a terrible earthquake. In some places it changed the course of the Ohio so that where there had been dry land there was now deep water, and where there had been deep water there was now dry land. One evening the captain of the "Big Fire Canoe" fastened his vessel to a large tree on the end of an island. In the morning the people on the steamboat looked out, but could not tell where they were; the island had gone: the earthquake had carried it away. The Indians called the earthquake the "Big Shake": it was a good name, for it kept on shaking that part of the country, and doing all sorts of damage for weeks.

When the steamboat reached the Mississippi, the settlers on that river said that the boat would never be able to go back, because the current is so strong. At one place a crowd had gathered to see her as she turned against the current, in order to come up to the landing-place. An old negro stood watching the boat. It looked as if in spite of all the captain could do she would be carried down stream, but at last steam conquered, and the boat came up to the shore. Then the old negro could hold in no longer: he threw up his ragged straw hat and shouted, 'Hoo-ray! hoo-ray! the old Mississippi's just got her master this time, sure!'

Soon steamboats began to run regularly on the Mississippi, and in the course of a few years they began to move up and down the Great Lakes and the Missouri River. Emigrants could now go to the west and the far west quickly and easily: they had to thank Robert Fulton for that. Robert Fulton lies buried in New York, in the shadow of the tower of Trinity Church. There is no monument or mark over his grave, but he has a monument in every steamboat on every great river and lake in America.

Directions: Answer the following multiple choice questions. Also, answer the following questions on a sheet of paper:
  1. At first the people mocked at the steam boat of Robert Fulton, then there was a change of attitude - Describe
  2. Write on "Big fire Canoe".

Q 1: Steam boat : Big fire Canoe :: Earthquake : ------------
Big Landslides
Big Shake
Big Landscapes

Q 2: In the first venture Fulton travelled --------- miles in the steam boat.
150 miles
120 miles
130 miles

Q 3: In 1811 Fulton strated his journey from ------- to go down to ------------
Pittsburgh to New Orleans
Pittsburgh to New York
New Orleans to Pittsburgh

Q 4: The first voyage of steam boat was across the ----------- river.

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Question 6: This question is available to subscribers only!

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