Original Document
Original Document
John Fitch recalls contemplating the possibilities of steam-powered travel, circa 1786.

"It is true I never trouble Churches much but am always pleased to hear you and must say that the most candid and ingineous discourses coms from you that I ever heard from a pulpit and that it is rather of an entertainment than a Burthen to go to meeting where you are to deliver a discourse even if it is on the most absurd Text that you can pick out of a jargon of Absurdities.

I Sir had for some Time been Troubled with the Rheumatism but on that day seemed to be clear in the morning. And as I had let my hors out to work for its living I walked to meeting on foot but on my return found it to seize me pretty severely in one of my knees. And in the Street Road a Gentleman passed me in a Chair with a Noble Horse. A thought struck me that it would be a noble thing if I could have such a carriage without the expense of keeping a hors. A query then rose immediately in my mind Thus viz what cannot you do if you will get yourself about it. Till then [I] was busey in discourse with my Company and afterwards refrained it all I could and wanted to be shut off him and could not reply to his discourse.

I soon thought that there might be a force procured by Steam and set to and made a draft. And in about one weeks time gave over the Idea of Carriages but thought it might answer for a Boat and better for a first rate man of war. These ideas Sir strongly impressed my mind and in about two or three weeks after [,I] went to see yourself on the Occation. When you shewed me Martins Philosophy with a Steam Engine laid down in it. Till then I did not know that there was such a thing in nature as a Steam Engine. Which chagreaned me considerably but it strengthened my opinion in the scheme knowing that the force as my only doubts lay in gaining the force itself. ”

Credit: Benjamin Franklin Papers, American Philosophical Society
Back to Top