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Fulton, Robert (1765-1815) to Charles W. Peale

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC05817 Author/Creator: Fulton, Robert (1765-1815) Place Written: Clermont, New York Type: Autograph letter signed Date: June 11, 1808 Pagination: 2 p. ; 24.5 x 19 cm. + 1 engraving ; b&w ; 26.6 x 21 cm

Fulton writes to prominent American painter Charles Willson Peale, enclosing $120, apparently in payment of a debt. He also details the success of his steamboat business and mentions the "virtuous exertions and enterprising spirit" of Peale's son, Rembrandt, also an artist. Fulton may have studied miniature painting with the elder Peale early in his life; both studied with Benjamin West in England. Peale had painted Fulton's portrait the previous year; and Fulton was involved in the artist's efforts to start an art museum in Philadelphia. Rembrandt Peale had also painted Fulton's portrait.

Partial transcript:
"My steamboat is now in complete operation and works much to my satisfaction, making her voyage from, or to, New York or Albany, 160 miles, on an average, in 35 hours. She has three excellent Cabins, or rather rooms, containing 54 berths, with Kitchen, larder, Pantry, Bar, and Steward's room. The people of this State are much pleased and our success in passengers has been encouraging. Last Saturday she started from New York with 70, which is doing very well for these times when trade has not its usual activity…."

1 black and white bust engraving of Fulton included.

Robert Fulton was an engineer and entrepreneur, often credited with inventing the steamboat. While Fulton did not invent any of the individual components of the steamboat, he did combine the ideas of many other men to make the most successful steamboat. He was an expert on combining numerous ideas of other men into one product, a process he used in numerous other engineering ventures throughout his life.
Charles Peale was a noted painter, but was interested in many other fields as well, including nature and watch making.

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