Today in History, April 11: 1803 – Instrumental in establishing the US Patent system, John Stevens receives a patent for the first screw driven, steam powered boat, or steamboat. The son of a member of the Continental Congress, A Captain and later Colonel in the Continental Army, Stevens turned his talents to inventions after the war. Robert Fulton would win the most fame for the steamship, but it was Stevens who first tied steam power to propeller driven naval craft. He would be best known as the father of the American railroad for steam powered railroad engines. Not nearly as famous as George Washington, or other American heroes…but how much more impact did Stevens have on the world with his inventions? He and his contemporaries took us from a world of sail to paddle wheeled steamships, to ironclads, to battleships, liners, supertankers, and more.
Today in History, December 12: 1917 –
Rail disaster in the Alps. Between 1,000 and 1,200 French soldiers had Christmas leave from the Italian front, and boarded an overloaded train bound for France over the Alps.
The train’s engineer refused to begin the trip…the passenger cars did not have enough brakes to make the trip safely. He changed his mind when when a well-meaning French officer pointed a pistol to his head…intent on his troops seeing their families for Christmas.
As the train reached the bottom of a long grade near Modane, France, the engineer’s fears were realized…the brakes would not slow the train and when the train reached a wooden bridge it derailed, most of the passenger cars bursting into flames. At least half of the soldiers were killed in the horrific crash…over 500. Listen to the professionals.
Today in History, June 13: 1920 – The US Postal Service rules that parents can NO LONGER send their children parcel post. Previous regulations stated that parcels sent via US Mail could not weigh more than 50 pounds…but did not differentiate between inanimate or live parcels. So poor parents had begun sending their children through the mail…they would ride in the mail car on trains.