USS Fulton. Designer's half hull model ca. 1835, scale 1:48. Design by naval constructor Samuel Humphreys. Navy Department Model Catalog #488.
The second steam warship built by the U.S. Navy, USS Fulton, was a double-ended, side wheel gunboat, 181 feet long that carried a crew of about 137 men. Following a suggestion by President Andrew Jackson, the Secretary of the Navy ordered the ship to be designed and built as a harbor defense battery. Commissioned on 13 December 1838, Fulton was an ugly but successful and speedy smooth-water ship capable of 14 or 16 knots, and mounting four 32 pounders and four or six light eighteen pounder cannons.
Not content with the ship's limited role, the vessel was ordered the ship into open seas. Several aspects of her design, including her hull, seen here, strongly suggested that she was not suited for steaming in unrestricted waters. An ocean-going failure and source of embarrassment, Fulton was laid up on 23 November 1842 and was never employed again. In 1851 her hull was razed and she was rebuilt. The failure of Fulton summed up the early Navy's confusion over the uses and limits of steam propulsion. On the other hand, in order to manage her mysterious steam plant, the position of chief engineer was first established within the department.
Models like this were disassembled in the mold loft and scaled-up to produce full-sized templates for building the ship. The full-sized templates were measured and recorded in tabular form. From the template measurements scale hull line drawings were prepared to record the shape of the hull.
Bennett, Frank M. The Steam Navy of the United States. Pittsburgh PA: W.T. Nicholson, 1898.
Canney, Donald L. Frigates, Sloops, and Gunboats, 1815-1885. vol. 1 of The Old Steam Navy. Naval Institute, Annapolis MD: Naval Institute,1990.
Emmons, George F. The Navy of the United States, From the Commencement, 1775 to 1853. Washington DC: Gideon & Co., 1853.
Naval History Division. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. vol. 2. Washington DC: Government Printint Office, 1963.
7 November 2003