John Laurence Busch, Author
STEAM COFFIN: Captain Moses Rogers and The Steamship Savannah Break the Barrier
Wednesday, September 16
John Laurence Busch, historian and author, sets the historical context to describe why the idea of a "steamship" crossing the Atlantic Ocean in 1819 was met with a mixture of skepticism and fear.
In 1807 Robert Fulton built an experimental “steamboat” to transport passengers between NYC and Albany, NY. Although the success of the Clermont (also called Fulton's Folly) proved that the steamboat was a viable mode of transport, the public remained unconvinced, even fearful, of this "new technology." But a sloop captain named Moses Rogers saw the Clermont and caught the fever—steamboat fever.
Eventually steamboats on rivers and lakes became a normal part of American life. But taking a steamboat across the ocean was a different proposition altogether. Experienced mariners didn’t think it could be done. Steamboats, they declared, were too flimsy and unwieldy to withstand the dangers of the deep.
Rogers believed otherwise. Combining his knowledge of the old mode of transport (sail) with the new mode of transport (steam), he designed a vessel that could face the perils of the sea. This craft would be not a “steamboat” but a “steamship,” the first of its kind. She was named Savannah, and author Busch calls her the first example of globalized high technology in history. Busch will describe the travails and victories Rogers faced as he persisted in following his dream.