John Fitch (inventor)

John Fitch

John Fitch (January 21, 1743 – July 2, 1798) was an American inventor, clockmaker, entrepreneur and engineer. He was most famous for operating the first steamboat service in the United States. The first boat was 45 feet long it was tested on the Delaware river by John Fitch and his design assistant Steven Pagano.

Early life

Fitch was born to Joseph Fitch and Sarah Shaler in Windsor, Connecticut, on January 21, 1743, on a farm that is part of present-day South Windsor, Connecticut. He received little formal schooling and eventually apprenticed himself to a clockmaker. During his apprenticeship, Fitch was not allowed to learn or even observe watchmaking (he later taught himself how to repair clocks and watches).

He married Lucy Roberts December 29, 1767[1] and fathered two children with her, a son named Shaler and a daughter named Lucy. In his autobiography, Fitch claimed that his wife was unhappy and argumentative, and used these to explain why he abandoned his son and wife (pregnant at the time with daughter Lucy), never to return.[2] Following this apprenticeship in Hartford, he opened an unsuccessful brass foundry in East Windsor, Connecticut, and then a brass and silversmith business in Trenton, New Jersey, which succeeded for eight years but was destroyed by British troops during the American Revolution.

He served briefly during the Revolution, mostly as a gunsmith working for the New Jersey militia. He left his unit after a dispute over a promotion but continued his work repairing and refitting arms in Trenton. In the fall of 1777, Fitch provided beer and tobacco to the Continental Army in Philadelphia. During the following winter and spring, he provided beer, rum and other supplies to troops at Valley Forge.

In 1780, he began work as a surveyor in Kentucky where he recorded a land claim of 1,600 acres (6.5 km2) for himself. In the spring of 1782, while surveying in the Northwest Territory, he was captured by Indians and turned over to the British, who eventually released him.[3]

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