Robert Fulton (1765-1815), recognized as the American pioneer of the commercial steamboat. Although John Ftich completed the first successful trial of a steamboat in 1787, it was Fulton who made the steamboat a practical and widespread mode of transporting people and goods. The commercial use of steamboats on the Hudson River began with Robert Fulton's successful trip from New York to Albany on August 14th, 1807. The voyage of the Clermont was the first of any significant distance made by a steamboat. Fulton and his partner Robert R. Livingston operated a profitable commercial steamboat service on the Hudson River between the cities of New York and Albany. Through Livingston's influence, the two men obtained exclusive rights to run steamboats on New York’s rivers, as well as on the lower end of the Mississippi. Their boats, however, were not well-suited for many western rivers that had powerful currents, shifting sandbars, and snags leading the partners to concentrate on their eastern investments.
Robert Fulton: Commercial Steamboat Inventor (Lemelson-MIT Program, Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
Robert Fulton: His Life and Its Treasures (Robert H. Thurston, University of Rochester)