James Rumsey Steamboat


What is a “canoe powered by a teakettle?”

A steamboat, of course! The eccentric inventor James Rumsey shocked Shepherdstown during a December 3, 1787 demonstration when his boat – without traditional sail or oars – actually left the dock here on this stretch of the Potomac River.

“She moves, by God, she moves!” exclaimed one particularly doubtful veteran. The steamboat traveled about half a mile upriver and returned to the landing. During a second test eight days later, the innovative craft reached speeds of 4 miles per hour.

Though Ramsey’s steamboat was first, many credit the invention to Robert Fulton, the man who mastered the production of the steamboat. But no matter whom the original inventor, the steamboat opened new worlds of navigation for the people of Shepherdstown, making opportunity and commerce easily accessible.

Mile Marker: 72.7
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