In the 1780s, as the Founding Fathers wrestled with a new experiment in government, a handful of other men experimented with a new idea in transportation: that a boat could move with the power of steam.

Steam: The Untold Story of America's First Great Invention tells the story of these technological pioneers and their battles with engineering, politics, finances and personality. It is a story of personal inspiration and ambition, a struggle against ridicule and public humiliation, and even personal animosity. Andrea Sutcliffe has crafted a history that combines tragedy with triumph as she deftly navigates the way from the first moments of the idea to the final success (though not by its originators).

Steam pulls the reader along with fascinating history and compelling biographies, introducing the characters, both famous and forgotten, who worked to conquer America's rivers. The book rings with names like Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Franklin (and even a Roosevelt), who all played a part in the creation (and sometimes delay) of the Age of Steam. But the story itself is that of two obscure inventors James Rumsey and John Fitch whose ideas, successes and failures opened the waterways for the eventual triumph of Robert Fulton. Sutcliffe presents well-rounded portraits that neither idolize nor choose among them. Each in his way was a genius; and in the end, Sutcliffe suggests, not one of them actually invented the steamboat they all did.

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