On the 24th of last January, Mr. Raymond, editor of the New York Times, delivered a lecture on the Hot Air Engine, and in the course of his remarks he stated that Capt. Ericsson was the inventor of the propeller, and told a curious story about his first propeller boat, and a Commission of the British Admiralty. Mr. Raymond obtained his extraordinary information from a lecture delivered before the Boston Lyceum in Dec. 1843, by John 0. Sargent. In the ?. Y. Times, of the 24th of Feb. last, the statement is repeated with the following endorsement :— Now no English Government steamer of any kind is furnished with any other propulsive mechanism, (Ericssons propeller). We assert that Ericsson is not the inventor of propellers for steamships, and that his propeller is not in use in England at all. The first inventor of the screw propeller in America, was Col. John Stevens, of Hoboken, the father of Ro-beitL. Stevens, of thiscity. A person named Shorter took out a patent for propelling vessels by a screw, in 1800, which screw was adapted to the motion of the vessel by a universal joint. The renowned Trevethick proposed the Archimedian screw for boats in 1815, and in 1816 a Mr. Milligan secured a patent for a propeller, consisting of two vanes like those of a smoke jack placed beyond the rudder, and working with a universal joint. In 1825 Jacob Perkins, of Massachusetts, after he took up his residence in England, patented a plan for propelling vessels, which consisted of two vanes working in opposite directions and placed at the side of the rudder. Wood-croft, whose screw of an increasing pitch, as modified, is now in general use in the English navy, and on all the propellers in Britain, ob- tained his patent in 1832, and Smith for his modification of the Archimedian propeller obtained his patent in 1836. Captain Ericsson obtained the patent for his propeller in 1837 ; it differed from that of Perkins in being submerged and placed behind the rudder. In conjunction with his propeller Capt. Ericsson patented the hollow hull, and a mode of disengaging his propeller, when required, which has been highly spoken of, but his propeller is of such questionable utility that the one with which the Princeton was fitted, was removed by Commodore Stockton, and replaced with another of a different character, by : which that war steamer was enabled to sail much faster. This is stated in the excellent work of Chief Engineer Stuart, on our Naval Steamers. Every one of the Atlantic propeller ships, the only really well tried and successful ships of the kind, with which we are acquainted, are fitted with section screw blades of an increasing pitch, and not the Ericsson propeller. Various patents were taken out in the United States, prior to Capt. Ericssons invention, such as J. Weddefields, of Philadelphia, in 1815; H. Wheatleys, of New York, for segments of a spiral in 1818 ; J. J. Guinands, of Baltimore, for screw, in 1831, and J. Smiths, of Charleston, S. C, in 1835, and J. B. Emersons, in 1S34 ; this latter inventor instituted suits against those who employed the Ericsson propeller as being an infringement of his patent, but we suppose his claims were too broad also. The great danger of lecturers, like biographers, is to make heroes of their subjects, and this (let charity say unwittingly) often at the expense of truth. It does no injustice to state what an inventor has done, and to praise its real worth, but when the claims of one inventor are taken from him and given to another, truth, honor, and honesty cry out against the evil. We could say a great deal more on this subject, but we forbear to do so at present.
This article was originally published with the title "The Inventors of Propellers" in Scientific American 8, 27, 213 (March 1853)