When steam made its appearance on the Liverpool and Manchester Railroad it attracted great attention here. But there was this difficulty about introducing an English engine on an American road. An English road was virtually a straight road. An American road had curves sometimes of as small radius as two hundred feet. For a brief season it was believed that this feature of the early American roads would prevent the use of locomotive engines. The contrary was demonstrated by a gentleman still living in an active and ripe old age, honored and beloved, distinguished for his private worth and for his public benefactions; one of those to whom wealth seems to have been granted by Providence that men might know how wealth could be used to benefit one's fellow creatures.
The speaker refers to Mr. Peter Cooper2 of New York. Mr. Cooper was satisfied that steam might be adapted to the curved roads which he saw would be built in the United States; and he came to Baltimore, which then possest the only one on which he could experiment, to vindicate his belief. He had another idea, which was, that the crank could be dispensed with in the change from a reciprocating to a rotary motion: and he build an engine to demonstrate both articles of his faith. The machine was not larger than the hand-cars used by workmen to transfer themselves from place to place; and as the speaker now recalls its appearance, the only wonder is that so apparently insignificant a contrivance should ever have been regarded as competent to the smallest results. But Mr. Cooper was wiser than many of the wisest around him. His engine could not have weighed, a ton; but he saw in it a principle which the forty-ton engines of to-day have but served to develop and demonstrate.
The boiler of Mr. Cooper's engine was not as large as the kitchen boiler attached to many a range in modern mansions. It was of about the same diameter, but not much more than half as high. It stood upright in the car, and was filled, above the furnace, which occupied the lower section, with vertical tubes. The cylinder was but three and a half inches in diameter, and speed was gotten up by gearing. No natural draft could have been sufficient to keep up steam in so small a boiler; and Mr. Cooper used therefore a blowing apparatus, driven by a dram attached to one of the car wheels, over which passed a cord that in its turn worked a pulley on the shaft of the blower. . . .
Mr. Cooper's success was such as to induce him to try a trip to Ellicott's Mills; and an open car, the first used upon the road, already mentioned, having been attached to his engine, and filled with the directors and some friends, the Speaker among the rest, the first journey by steam in America was commenced. The trip was most interesting. The curves were passed without difficulty at a speed of fifteen miles an hour; the grades were ascended with comparative ease; the day was fine, the company in the highest spirits, and some excited gentlemen of the party pulled out memorandum books, and when at the highest speed, which was eighteen miles an hour, wrote their names and some connected sentences, to prove that even at that great velocity it was possible to do so. The return trip from the Millsa distance of thirteen mileswas made in fifty-seven minutes. This was in the summer of 1830.
But the triumph of this Tom Thumb engine was not altogether without a drawback. The great stage proprietors of the day were Stockton & Stokes; and on this occasion a gallant gray of great beauty and power was driven by them from town, attached to another car on the second trackfor the company had begun by making two tracks to the Millsand met the engine at the Relay House on its way back. From this point it was determined to have a race home; and, the start being even, away went horse and engine, the snort of the one and the puff of the other keeping time and time. At first the gray had the best of it, for his steam would be applied to the greatest advantage on the instant, while the engine had to wait until the rotation of the wheels set the blower to work. The horse was perhaps a quarter of a mile ahead when the safety-valve of the engine lifted and the thin blue vapor issuing from it showed an excess of steam. The blower whistled, the steam blew off in vapory clouds, the pace increased, the passengers shouted, the engine gained on the horse, soon it lapped himthe silk was pliedthe race was neck and neck, nose and nosethen the engine passed the horse, and a great hurrah hailed the victory.
But it was not repeated; for just at this time, when the gray's master was about giving up, the band which drove the pulley, which drove the blower, slipt from the drum, the safety-valve ceased to scream, and the engine for want of breath began to wheeze and pant. In vain Mr. Cooper, who was his own engineman and fireman, lacerated his hands in attempting to replace the band upon the wheel: in vain he tried to urge the fire with light wood; the horse gained on the machine, and passed it; and altho the band was presently replaced, and steam again did its best, the horse was too far ahead to be overtaken, and came in the winner of the race. But the real victory was with Mr. Cooper, notwithstanding. He had held fast to the faith that was in him, and had demonstrated its truth beyond the peradventure. All honor to his name. . . .
In the Musée d'Artillerie at Paris there are preserved old cannon, contemporary almost with Crecy and Poictiers. In some great museum of internal improvement, and some such will at some future day be gotten up, Mr. Peter Cooper's boiler3should hold an equally prominent and far more honored place; for while the old weapons of destruction were ministers of man's wrath, the contrivance we have described was one of the most potential instruments in making available, in America, that vast system which unites remote peoples and promotes that peace on earth and good will to men which angels have proclaimed4
1From Latrobe's "Baltimore and Ohio RaiIroadPersonal Recollections." Latrobe became connected with this road when first projected, and retained his connection for half a century. Peter Cooper's locomotive had been preceded on an American track by one built in England, but the English locomotive, when put to trial, could not be operated successfully. This trial was made on a railroad built for transporting coal, and belonging to the Delaware and Hudson Canal Company. It took place in 1829 at Honesdale, Pa. The locomotive was known as "The Stourbridge Lion."
The first American-built locomotive that made a successful trip on rails was, therefore, the one described by Mr. Latrobe, and built by Peter Cooper, who was a stockholder in the road. Peter Cooper's locomotive was merely a working model. In actual railway service, the first American built locomotive put into use was one operated on the South Carolina Railroad, which ran from Charleston to Hamburg, and was called the "Best Friend."
2 The American philanthropist, born in New York in 1701, died in 1888; founder of Cooper Union.
3 Still preserved and occasionally shown at world's fairs, as at Chicago in 1893.
4 Of the Mohawk and Hudson road, of 1831, which ran from Albany to Schenectady, Thurlow Weed, in his "Antobiography," says: "In the summer of 1831, the great railway system of America was inaugurated by the completion and opening of two or three short roads. The first steamcar, placed upon the Mohawk and Hudson track, was propelled by a locomotive from the summit of the hill at, Albany to the summit of the hill which descends into Schenectady. At either end of the route was a stationary engine, by means of which cars were drawn up and down the inclined plane. But even with these drawbacks, which show how much has been since done to perfect the system, an hour was gained upon the time required by stages between the two cities. The cars were extemporized by placing the body of the stage-coach then in use on a simple four-wheeled platform car."
Transition from paddles and sails to steampower had been easily made in our coastwise channels and upon the rivers most navigated. On the broad Mississippi the ark and flatboat were long since degraded to the baser purposes of trade, while great floating palaces of 400 to 700 tons steamed proudly past such rude craft on the upward course of which the latter were incapable, each wafting its long mantle of cinders and black smoke behind, its two and even three docks crowded with human beings and all sorts of freight, its wheels lashing the river into white foam on each side, and the steam hissing high in air at every throb of the machinery. Down the river these majestic vessels kept near the middle of the stream so as to take the current; up again, they were steered near shore to avoid it; and at various landings they would stop for firewood, which flatboatmen returning from New Orleans would help load on board in part payment of their passage.
A sham splendor of gilded panels concealed many dangerous defects in the construction and arrangement of these vessels; often the only outlet from the men's saloon was through a barroom whose counter was directly over the machinery; a cooking-stove carelessly set up blackened the woodwork with its hot funnel; hole after hole was plugged up in the badly-made boilers, until they were ready to burst to pieces, inflicting some terrible disaster. The shifty, reckless management of steamboats throughout the Southwest, so scanty in skilful mechanics, was already a proverb; of the craft built for the immense and increasing traffic upon the Mississippi and Ohio rivers much was worn out in five years, being made of green wood and hurriedly built, tho often it would take less than half that time to pay from its profits the original cost of the vessel.
Verily, a new era had began. What a motley crowd was this collected in the vast vapor-propelled arks, to face in common the dangers on these wide and dreary rivers of snags, fire, explosion: women and children of all social conditions isolated in the ladies' cabin; men at the dram counter, coming and going, to tipple into a better mutual acquaintance; tourists, wayfarers, planters, pedlers, speculators, politicians, slave-dealers, whether on business or recreation bent, bunking together in the main saloon; those more humbly quartered singing, dancing, wrestling, reading the Bible, or croning out their tales far into the night, while the pale gamblers sat with the prey in their clutches, pursuing their vampire game long after the cocks in a neighboring cage had crowed the approaching dawn. More refinement and a better regard for life and comfort marked the shorter and gayer steamboat excursions at the East, and on our American Rhine, whose Dutch legends Irving has made immortal. Through sound or river, or up the bay in various other directions, the stage journeys were already lessened and distances much abridged between the great Atlantic cities; and passengers from New York to Philadelphia were transferred to some fourteen or more coaches on passing the pier at Amboy, the tickets for the different stages, which were all properly numbered, having been handed about, and the luggage divided and chalked while the steamer was on its course.
1 From Schouler's "History of the United States." By permission of Mr. Schouler, and of his publishers, Dodd, Mead & Company.Copyright, 1880-1891.
NULLIFICATION AND ITS OVERTHROW