RUMSEY, James (1743?-1792)
A Short Treatise on the Application of Steam, Whereby is Clearly Shewn, From Actual Experiments, That Steam May be Applied to Propel Boats or Vessels of Any Burthen Against Rapid Currents With Great Velocity. The Same Principles are Also Introduced with Effect, by a Machine of a Simple and Cheap Construction, for the Purpose of Raising Water Sufficient for the Working of Grist-Mills, Saw-Mills, &c. and for Watering Meadows and Other Purposes of Agriculture
Philadelphia: printed by Joseph James, 1788. Octavo. (8 3/4 x 5 3/8 inches). [1-]26 pp.
Contemporary paper wrappers, early manuscript title on upper wrapper, uncut (wrappers with repaired tears).
Provenance: W.H.H. Newman (Buffalo, New York, bookplate and signature on title)
Second edition, second issue of this important early pamphlet on steam navigation by one of the two American steam pioneers.
James Rumsey's pamphlet was first published under a slightly different title (A plan wherein the power of steam is fully shewn... ) in 1788. It was then reprinted with this title, in two different issues (the first with the word 'chep' on the title, the second with the word correctly spelled, as here). Rumsey states in the "Advertisement" on the verso of the title that this pamphlet is reprinted from "a pamphlet published in Virginia, to prove the authors prior right of applying steam, to propel boats &c. as well as to establish the principles on which he has done it, a few copies were then thought sufficient for that purpose, but as Mr. Fitch intends to answer the pamphlet, it is therefore necessary to re-publish as much of it as respects Mr. Fitch, which is done with no other variation, from the original, than to correct a few of the omissions and mistakes that were introduced into the first publication". Rumsey and John Fitch entered into a controversy over whose steam-powered boat had priority. Fitch was the first to publicize his invention and obtained a 14-year privilege for the manufacture of steam vessels, giving him a virtual monopoly on its production in America. Rumsey's pamphlet prompted John Fitch to reply by publishing his Original steamboat supported, (1788) in which Fitch attacked Rumsey's claim to priority. Though neither man was financially successful, Fitch went on to inaugurate the first commercial steamboat service on the Delaware River in 1790.
Evans 21442; Norman 1859; Sabin 74128; Streeter sale 3961; Rink 2924; Howes R499 'b'.