Science News a Century Ago


    Launch of S.S. John Randolph On July 9, 1834, the John Randolph, the first iron steam vessel in the United States, was launched on the Savannah River. She had been built by John Laird at Birkenhead and sent to the United States in sections. She was 110 ft. long, 22 ft. beam, and drew about 2f ft. Her tonnage by the builder's old measurement rules was about 250 tons. Her engines, of 60 horse-power, had been made by Fawcett, Preston and Co., of Liverpool. The first iron vessel had been built so long before as 1787, but iron shipbuilding made slow progress. There were many objections raised against the use of iron, but practical experience proved most of them to be ill-founded. In the end, iron ships proved lighter and faster than wooden ships, cargoes could be stored more easily and kept in better condition in them, they were more easily repaired, and when fitted with watertight bulkheads were far safer. The pioneers of iron shipbuilding in Great Britain included John Grantham, Sir William Fairbairn and David Napier, but none did more important work in this direction than John Laird.

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    Science News a Century Ago. Nature 134, 38 (1934).

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