Steam′ship, a vessel moved by steam. A half-successful experiment was made by Papin to use steam to propel a boat as early as 1707, but it was not until the perfecting of the steam-engine by Watt that any advance was made in steam-navigation. Early inventors of steamboats were William Henry, 1783, and John Fitch, 1785-96, in the United States and William Symmington and Henry Bell in Great Britain, but the first steam-vessel to make a voyage of any considerable length was the Clermont, made by Robert Fulton in 1807. She was 133 feet long, and made the voyage of 150 miles from New York to Albany in 32 hours. In the same year Col. John Stevens built at New York the Phœnix, which was taken around to Delaware River by sea because Fulton had a monopoly of steam-navigation on the Hudson. This was the first steamboat to make a sea-voyage. The first passenger steamboat in operation in Europe was the Comet on the Clyde in 1812, although a successful boat had been on the Clyde Canal as early as 1802. The first steamship to cross the ocean was the Savannah, a ship of 350 tons, which made the voyage from Savannah, Ga., to Liverpool and thence to St. Petersburg in 1819. Both sails and steam were used. The voyage to Liverpool was made in 25 days. The first vessels to cross the Atlantic using steam the whole distance were the Great Western and the Sirius, which reached New York on the same day, April 23, 1838. Since then the transatlantic steamship-service from New York has been continuous. All the earlier steamships were propelled by wheels at the side or at the ends. The screw-propeller was introduced by Smith and Ericsson about 1840 (see Screw-Propeller), and since then all ocean-steamers and many inland steamers use it. Iron and steel have superseded wood for large ships, and steamships have continued to grow in size, power of engines and speed. The voyage from New York to England is now made in four days and fifteen hours by the fastest ship or in seven days by the slow steamers. The largest and fastest steamers on the ocean to-day are the Deutschland, length 686 feet, displacement 23,000 tons, average speed 23.36 knots per hour, H. P. of engines 35,000; Oceanic, length 704 feet, displacement 28,000 tons, average speed 20.48 knots per hour, H. P. of engines 28,000; Lusitania, 790 feet long, 32,000 tons' displacement and average speed 25.05 knots an hour; and Mauretania, 790 feet long, 32,000 tons' displacement and average speed 24.86 knots an hour.


Each of the last two steamers has 70,000 horse-power. The White Star Line is building two Atlantic liners of 42,000 tons' burden each and over 900 feet in length. The Mauretania and Lusitania are quadruple-screw turbines and are not merely floating hotels or palaces but cities at sea. The average daily coal-consumption of the Deutschland is 570 tons. In the United States, steamship-building has until recent years been largely confined to vessels for inland waters. The river steamboats of the United States are fine examples of boat-building. They must ascend rivers against strong currents, and often need to travel in shallow waters and carry large amounts of freight or tow large fleets of barges. This has developed a large vessel of only a few feet draught and with very powerful engines. On the western rivers most of the boats have stern-wheels. The steamers on the Great Lakes rival ocean-steamers in speed, size and equipment. Most of them are engaged in the transportation of grain and of iron-ore. Since 1883 ocean-steamship building in the United States has developed largely, owing to the impetus given by the construction of the large government cruisers and warships of “the new navy.” The largest and finest commercial steamships built in the United States are the Minnesota and her sister-ship, built at New London, Conn., for the Pacific trade, the former being 630 feet long and having, when built, the greatest depth of any ship on the ocean. See Navy, Ship, Shipbuilding and Turbine.