Great Fortunes, and How They Were Made eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 694 pages of information about Great Fortunes, and How They Were Made.

[Illustration:  ROBERT FULTON.]

III.

INVENTORS

CHAPTER XIII.

ROBERT FULTON.

One of the pleasantest as well as one of the most prominent places in the city of New York is the grave-yard of old Trinity Church.  A handsome iron railing separates it from Broadway, and the thick rows of grave-stones, all crumbling and stained with age, present a strange contrast to the bustle, vitality, and splendor with which they are surrounded.  They stare solemnly down into Wall Street, and offer a bitter commentary upon the struggles and anxiety of the money kings of the great city.  Work, toil, plan, combine as you may, they seem to say, and yet it must all come to this.

Not far from the south door of the church, and shaded by a venerable tree, is a plain brown stone slab, bearing this inscription:  “The vault of Walter and Robert C. Livingston, sons of Robert Livingston, of the manor of Livingston.”  A stranger would pass it by without a second glance; yet it is one of the Meccas of the world of science, for the mortal part of Robert Fulton sleeps in the vault below, without monument or legendary stone to his memory, but in sight of the mighty steam fleets which his genius called forth.  Very few visitors ever see this part of the churchyard, and the grave of Fulton is unknown to nine out of ten of his countrymen.  Yet this man, sleeping so obscurely in his grave without a name, did far more for the world than either Napoleon or Wellington.  He revolutionized commerce and manufactures, changed the entire system of navigation, triumphed over the winds and the waves, and compelled the adoption of a new system of modern warfare.  Now he lies in a grave not his own, with no monument or statue erected to his memory in all this broad land.

ROBERT FULTON was born in the township of Little Britain (now called Fulton), in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, in 1765.  He was of Irish descent, and his father was a farmer in moderate circumstances.  He was the eldest son and third child of a family of five children.  The farm upon which he was born was conveyed by his father in 1766 to Joseph Swift, in whose family it still remains.  It contains three hundred and sixty-four acres, and is one of the handsomest farms in Lancaster County.

After disposing of his farm, Mr. Fulton, senior, removed to the town of Lancaster, where he died in 1768, and there young Robert grew up under the care of his mother.  He learned to read and write quickly, but did not manifest much fondness for his books after mastering his elementary studies.  He early exhibited an unusual talent for drawing, however, greatly preferring the employment of his pencil to the more serious duties of the school.  His instructors and companions considered him a dull boy, though all admitted that he showed no disposition to be idle.  All his

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Great Fortunes, and How They Were Made from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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