The Earliest Steamships
THE idea of the steamboat is much more ancient than most persons suppose, as early as the year 1736 Mr. Jonathan Hulls having, in England, obtained a patent for a "new invented machine for carrying vessels or ships out of or into any harbor, port, or river, against wind and tide, or in a calm."
This he proposed to do by the application of steam power, the engine being modeled on Newcome's and placed in a towboat. Mr. Hulls published a description of this machine in 1737, but whether his scheme was ever carried into practical effect is not known. A copy of his pamphlet is preserved in the library of the British Museum.
In the year 1801, a vessel propelled by steam was tried on the Forth of Clyde in Scotland, and this boat seems to have been a success. It was, however, abandoned because the wash from the ship was said to injure the banks of the canal. It was not until 1812 that steam navigation was permanently established on the Clyde, and in the meantime Fulton had sailed up the Hudson.
"Earliest Steam Navigation," The American Marine Engineer, New York, Volume VII, No. 1, January 1912, Page 22.