It is well known to all acquainted with the history of steam navigation, that a Scotch carpenter, named Henry Bell, although not the first who invented or proved the practibility of navigating rivers by steam power, yet he was the first in Europe who successfully established the fact. This was in 1811, three years after Fulton commenced running with the Clermont between Albany and New York. The name of Henry Bell's first boat was "The Comet." It made regular trips between Glasgow and Greenock, two cities on the river Clyde. Bell had no sooner (after great risk) established the payability of steam navigation, than richer men entered upon a struggle of competition, which, from his inadequate means, at last forced him to retire. His wife, a heroine of ^he first water, did business on her own account, and freely advanced all her extra funds to her husband, in order that he might carry out his favorite scheme and come off with success. When Henry Bell grew old and infirm, his friends applied to the British Government to get a pension for him on account of the valuable services he rendered to the navigation of Great Britain. This was refused for the reason that he was not the original inventor,—Mr. Miller, of Dalswinton, being that person, and he was dead. The citizens of Glasgow, however, gave him a pension of 100 per annum, and since his death, which took place some years ago, they have given 50 to his old wife. We see by the ." Scottish Guardian," of Sept. 10, that this pension has been increased to 100 per annum—nearly $500. It is a remarkable tact that New York, in America, and Glasgow in Scotland, are the two most famous cities in the world for the building of steamships, and these two cities have the honor of being the places, where steam navigation was first established on the two separate continents. In 1823 the revenue of rivr dues, in Glasgow, was $35,000, now it is $380,000. This great increase has been brought about by steam navigation.
This article was originally published with the title "The Widow of Henry Bell" in Scientific American 8, 5, 37 (October 1852)