A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from September 07, 2015
Fulton’s Folly (North River Steamboat)

American engineer and inventor Robert Fulton (1765-1815) operated the North River Steamboat in 1807 (the Hudson River was known as the North River at that time) from New York City to Albany. Many Americans did not believe in steam transportation and derided the venture as the “Fulton Folly” or “Fulton’s Folly.”

An 1807 citation of the “folly” nickname is lacking. “Fulton’s Folly” was cited in print in 1824. A widely reprinted line (supposedly from Robert Fulton, who died in 1815) was printed in 1831:

“The loud laugh often rose at my (Robert Fulton—ed.) expense; the dry jest; the wise calculations of losses and expenditures; the dull but endless repetition of the Fulton Folly.”


WikipediaL Robert Fulton
Robert Fulton (November 14, 1765 – February 24, 1815) was an American engineer and inventor who is widely credited with developing a commercially successful steamboat called Clermont. That steamboat went from New York City to Albany with passengers which is a 300-mile distance in 62 hours. In 1800, he was commissioned by Napoleon Bonaparte to design the “Nautilus”, which was the first practical submarine in history. He is also credited with inventing some of the world’s earliest naval torpedoes for use by the British Royal Navy.

Wikipedia: North River Steamboat
The North River Steamboat or North River (often erroneously referred to as Clermont) is widely regarded as the world’s first commercially successful steamboat. Built in 1807, the North River Steamboat operated on the Hudson River (at that time often known as the North River) between New York and Albany. She was the first vessel to demonstrate the viability of using steam propulsion for commercial river transportation. She was built by the wealthy investor and politician Robert Livingston and inventor and entrepreneur Robert Fulton (1765–1815).
(...)
Skeptics at the time ridiculed the venture, often referring to the steamboat as “Fulton’s Folly” before she was launched. Livingston and Fulton quickly silenced their critics: “She moves! She moves!” people exclaimed in awe when they saw the boat moving against the river current; no mention of “Fulton’s Folly” was made thereafter.

Google Books
An Address Delivered Before the Massachusetts Charitable Mechanic Association.
By Alpheus Cary
Boston, MA: Munroe and Francis
1824
Pg. 12:
... which compelled the House of Representatives of the United States, in 1810, to refuse Robert Fulton the use of their Hall to deliver a lecture on steam navigation, on the ground that it was “a visionary scheme;” which sneered at “Fulton’s Folly,” as it was nicknamed, in Brown’s shipyard, at New York; ...

Google Books
October 1831, American Library of Useful Knowledge, pg. 520:
“The loud laugh often rose at my (Robert Fulton—ed.) expense; the dry jest; the wise calculations of losses and expenditures; the dull but endless repetition of the Fulton Folly.”

Google Books
4 November 1836, New-York (NY) Mirror, “Steam and its prospects,” pg. 151, col. 2:
“The loud laugh often rose at my expense, the dry jest, the wise calculations of losses and expenditures, tho dull but endless repetitions of Fulton’s folly.”

OCLC WorldCat record
The steamboat era : a history of Fulton’s Folly on American rivers, 1807-1860
Author: S L Kotar; J E Gessler
Publisher: Jefferson, N.C. : McFarland & Co., ©2009.
Edition/Format: eBook : Document : English
Database: WorldCat
Summary:
“First-hand accounts of steamboat accidents, races, business records and river improvements are collected here to reveal the culture and economy of the early to mid-1800s, as well as the daily routines of crew and passengers. A glossary of steamboat terms and a collection of contemporary accounts of accidents round out this history of the riverboat era"--Provided by publisher.

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityTransportation • Monday, September 07, 2015 • Permalink