Dubuque County Historical Society Images

The Builders

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James Rumsey

James Rumsey unveiled his revolutionary "jet" propelled steamboat in 1787, 20 years before Fulton's Clermont. Rumsey successfully demonstrated his 48-foot steamboat on the Potomac River before George Washington and a crowd of hundreds, just months after rival John Fitch demonstrated his own paddle steamboat.

In Rumsey's unique design, water was taken in through the bow, heated, and then ejected under pressure at the stern - a technique still in use today in ferry boats, high speed patrol craft and many other vessels.

Rumsey also invented the water-tube boiler, which increased steam efficiency and reduced the size and fuel demand. Again, this technology is one commonly found today in modern steam vessels and nuclear-powered ships. Rumsey was an inventor, engineer and builder whose visionary genius created inventions that were far ahead of their time.

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