What is a Steamboat?
A steamboat is a vessel propelled by steam power. In most cases, a steamboat will use paddlewheels or propellers, although sometimes a prefix designation is used. The word “steamboat” can refer to several types of vessels. Its name is not always indicative of the type of vessel it is. There are two main categories of steamboats: passenger and cargo boats. The first type of steamboat uses paddlewheels while the second type uses propellers.
While there are many types of steamboats, the most common type is a packet steamboat. These are large vessels, usually carrying several passengers, that are used for local transportation and general commerce. They have one deck for first class passengers, and a smaller second class for lower-class travelers. They were a common sight on the Mississippi, where they were used for the transportation of goods. They were often called “Fulton’s Folly” because of their transient nature.
The first steamboats were operated on American rivers by John Fitch and James Rumsey, but did not survive the harsh conditions of the river. The first steamboats ran for four years before sinking in 1838. The earliest steamboats relied on manpower to row. The first commercial steamboats did not start to run on a regular basis until James Watt improved the steam engine and combined it with a more improved hull design.