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Photo courtesy of the Dartmouth College Collection.




Stolen steamboat
No credit for NH inventor

10/09/14
By Hippo Staff news@hippopress.com



The history books will say that Robert Fulton was the inventor of the first paddlewheel steamboat, but residents of Orford are quick to argue otherwise. Orford’s Samuel Morey was a prolific inventor and tinkerer, credited with inventing the steam-powered fireplace spit. Carl Bielenberg, an Orford resident, inventor and expert on Samuel Morey, said Orford’s own son is like many inventors in that he may have invented the technology, but didn’t get any of the credit.

“The steamboat is an example of that,” Bielenberg said. “Everybody in town knows Samuel Morey, and they know he invented the paddle steamboat — but they don’t know that he did a lot more than that.”
At the end of the 18th century, many had been working on developing a paddlewheel steamboat, both in Europe and in the United States. Morey built his model and sailed it down the Connecticut River. However, the story goes that Robert Fulton (who had been experimenting with steamboats in France) approached Chancellor Robert Livingston, who referred Fulton to Morey’s own invention. Morey was allegedly offered $100,000 for the rights to the steamboat (“which would have been $1 billion today,” Bielenberg said), and although Morey agreed, he never received his money.
Morey never stopped inventing. Documents and patents at Dartmouth College and the New Hampshire and Vermont Historical Societies show that Morey invented a rotary steam engine, a solar power engine and an internal combustion engine that used turpentine distilled from pine trees (about 50 years prior to the petroleum-fueled internal combustion engine, invented by Benz in Germany).
“[Inventing] was a thing he loved to do more than anything else,” Bielenberg said.
In a way, Morey did get some justice over the invention of the paddlewheel steamboat. John Sullivan purchased Morey’s patent for the rotary steam engine, which he then used to design the steam-powered tugboat. Thanks to this invention, Fulton lost his monopoly of operating paddlewheel steamboats on the Hudson River, Bilenberg said. 
 
As seen in the October 9, 2014 issue of the Hippo.





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