Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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RUMSEY, James, inventor, born in Bohemia Manor, Cecil County, Maryland, about 1743; died in London, England, 23 December, 1792. He was a machinist by trade, and early turned his attention to inventing, making various improvements in the mechanism of mills. In 1784 he exhibited to George Washington the model of a boat for stemming the current of rivers by the force of the stream acting on settling poles, which he patented in several states: and he obtained in March, 1785, the exclusive right for ten years " to navigate and build boats calculated to work with greater ease and rapidity against rapid rivers" from the assembly of Philadelphia. Subsequently he succeeded in launching a boat on the Potomac, which he propelled by a steam-engine and machinery of his own construction that secured motion by the force of a stream of water thrown out by a pump at the stern. In December, 1787, a successful trial trip was witnessed by a large concourse of people, and he was granted the rights of navigating the streams of New York, Maryland, and Virginia. The Rumsey society, of which Benjamin Franklin was a member, was founded in Philadelphia in 1788 for the purpose of furthering his schemes. He then went to England, where a similar society was organized, and he obtained patents for his inventions in Great Britain, France, and Holland. A boat and machinery were built for him, and a successful trip was made on the Thames in December, 1792, bug he died while preparing for another experiment. The legislature of Kentucky presented in 1839 a gold medal to his son " commemorative of his father's services and high agency in giving to the world the benefits of the steamboat." He published a "Short Treatise on the Application of Steam " (Philadelphia, 1788), by which he became involved in a controversy with John Fitch (q. v.).
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