This Day in History – October 11th, 1811

John StevensColonel John Stevens, III was an American lawyer, an engineer, and an inventor. From his legal background he was influential in the creation of U.S. patent law, but as an engineer and inventor he gave America its first steam locomotive, and on this day in 1811 opened the first steam-powered ferry service, the Juliana, between his estate at Hoboken, New Jersey and New York City.

Nine years prior, in 1802,Stevens built a screw-driven steamboat, and in 1806 he built the Phoenix, a steamboat that ultimately sailed from Hoboken to Philadelphia in 1809, thereby becoming the first steamship to successfully navigate the open ocean.

The first railroad charter in the U.S. was given to Stevens and others in 1815 for the New Jersey Railroad. He designed and built a steam locomotive capable of hauling several passenger cars at his estate in Hoboken, New Jersey in 1825. The invention of the steam engine helped begin the modern railroads and trains, and Stevens was leading the way for America.


Museum replica of Stevens’s locomotive.

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