steamship

Oceangoing Steamships

The first ocean crossing by a steam-propelled vessel was in 1819, when the Savannah voyaged from Savannah, Ga., to Liverpool in 29 days, 11 hr. It was a full-rigged sailing ship fitted with engines and side paddlewheels; during the crossing the engines were in use for about 85 hr. The first crossing under steam power alone was made in 1838, when two British steamship companies sent rival ships to New York within a few days of each other; the Great Western made the trip in 15 days, arriving a few hours after the Sirius, which had left England 4 days before her. The first seagoing vessel to be fitted with a screw propeller was the Archimedes (1840); the Great Britain (1845) was the first large iron steamship driven by a screw propeller to cross the Atlantic. By the late 1850s the screw propeller was conceded to be superior to paddlewheels, and the steamship began to supplant the sailing ship. In 1881 the Servia, a merchant steamer capable of crossing the Atlantic in 7 days, was the first vessel to be constructed of steel. Seven years later the Philadelphia, the first twin-screw steamship, was built at Glasgow.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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