Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie School Update

Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Robert W. Runcie’s 8/25/20 update

In case you missed last week’s School Board Meeting on 8/25/20, please view Broward County Public Schools Superintendent Robert W. Runcie’s remarks:

It includes:

  • First day of school
  • Current data for consideration of opening face-to-face learning
  • Enrollment
  • Athletics
  • Revisions to curriculum for pre-K, kindergarten and first grade
  • Memorandum of Understanding between the School Board of Broward County, Florida and Broward Teachers Union
  • Launch of “T.A.L.K.” – a new app for students to speak with a mental health expert or to report abuse

Watch the Superintendent’s 8/25/2020 video.


Today in History – August 31

On August 31, 1897, Thomas Edison received a patent for the kinetographic camera, “a certain new and useful Improvement in Kinetoscopes,” the forerunner of the motion picture film projector. Edison and his assistant, W. K. L. Dickson, had begun work on the project—to enliven sound recordings with moving pictures—in hopes of boosting sales of the phonograph, which Edison had invented in 1877. Unable to synchronize the two media, he introduced the kinetoscope, a device for viewing moving pictures without sound—on which work had begun in 1889. Patents were filed for the kinetoscope and kinetograph in August 1891.

Edison Kinetoscopic Record of a Sneeze, January 7, 1894. W. K. L. Dickson, production; Frederic P. Ott, performer; William Heise, camera; United States: Edison Manufacturing Co., 1894. Inventing Entertainment: The Early Motion Pictures and Sound Recordings of the Edison Companies. Motion Picture, Broadcasting & Recorded Sound Division

The kinetoscope (viewer), which Edison initially considered an insignificant toy, had become an immediate success about a decade earlier. The invention was soon replaced, however, by screen projectors that made it possible for more than one person to view the novel silent movies at the same time.

The Black Maria, Edison’s First Motion Picture Studio, West Orange, New Jersey, used between December 1892 and January 1901. Inventing Entertainment: the Early Motion Pictures and Sound Recordings of the Edison Companies. Motion Picture, Broadcasting & Recorded Sound Division

Edison and Dickson continued to experiment with motion pictures in the late 1880s and into the 1890s. Dickson designed the Black Maria, the first movie studio, which was completed in 1893. The name was derived from the slang for the police paddy wagons that the studio was said to resemble. Between 1893 and 1903, Edison produced more than 250 films at the Black Maria, including many of those found in the collection, Inventing Entertainment: the Early Motion Pictures and Sound Recordings of the Edison Companies at the Library of Congress. Most of the films are short, as it was believed that people would not stand the “flickers” for more than ten minutes.

Turn-of-the-century copyright law provided protection for photographs, but did not yet have a provision for motion pictures. Therefore, a number of early film producers protected their work by submitting paper contact prints (paper prints) of the film’s individual frames – usually on long strips of paper – for copyright registration. By the time the law was amended in 1912, over 3,500 paper prints had been deposited for registration in the United States Copyright Office within the Library of Congress. This practice proved fortuitous, as many early films have been lost due to disintegration and the high combustibility caused by early film’s nitrate base. Many of these paper contact prints were converted back to film in the 1950s, and hundreds were digitized in the 1990s.

Three Acrobats. Thomas A. Edison, Inc., March 20, 1899. Variety Stage Sound Recordings and Motion Pictures. Motion Picture, Broadcasting & Recorded Sound Division


Florida School Reopening Date Arrives as Legal Skirmishing Continues

A Florida state appellate court on Monday issued an opinion suggesting it was likely to rule in favor of Gov. Ron DeSantis and his administration’s order that schools reopen and offer in-person instruction amid the coronavirus pandemic.

But the intense legal battle over the DeSantis administration’s emergency order that required most school districts in the state to open their campuses five days a week by Aug. 31 or face a significant loss in state aid may be turning into an increasingly irrelevant sideshow.

As the Aug. 31 deadline arrived, 18 more Florida districts opened brick-and-mortar schools on Monday, joining a majority of the rest of the state’s 67 county school systems that had opened sometime earlier. (Three school systems—Miami-Dade, Broward County, and Palm Beach County—have been permitted by the state to offer only remote learning past Aug. 31 because of high rates of COVID-19 infection in their areas.)

“Today is the first day we can literally say we are fully open,” Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran said Monday at an education forum with DeSantis. About 60 percent of students—some 1.6 million—are attending school in person, while 40 percent are continuing remote learning, he said.

DeSantis said at the forum that “our view on the schools was, every parent in Florida should have an option about whether they have their kid [attending] in-person instruction or whether they should remain in distance learning. … This is an important part of making sure we’re empowering parents.”

The unanimous opinion by a three-judge panel of the First District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee was meant to explain a rather technical development—the reinstatement a few days earlier of a stay of a state trial court’s Aug. 24 preliminary injunction that blocked the emergency order.

But the opinion in DeSantis v. Florida Education Association largely tipped the hand of the state appellate court.

“The state has shown a substantial likelihood of success on the merits of its appeal,” the appeals court said. “We find merit in the state’s argument that [challengers of the emergency order] failed to meet their burden to show that a temporary injunction is necessary to prevent irreparable harm. … [T]he emergency order does not compel any student to return to a school for in-person instruction. Nor does it require any teacher to return to a brick-and-mortar school for in-person instruction.”

Corcoran said the state appellate court opinion reinstating a stay of Leon County Circuit Judge Charles W. Dodson’s Aug. 24 injunction was “an absolute rebuke of the trial court trying to take that right away from parents and students.”

The appellate court certainly took a drastically different view of the case brought by the Florida Education Association and other plaintiffs than Dodson did.

On one level, the appeals court’s action might be described as routine. Once the state appealed Dodson’s decision, the injunction was automatically stayed because the appeal was filed by a state officer. But at the request of the plaintiffs, Dodson had lifted the stay last week, saying “potential irreparable injury will be suffered by hundreds of thousands of school children, many teachers, and the community at large” if his injunction were blocked during an extended appeal.

“Teachers are resigning or retiring due to the risk of exposure to COVID-19,” Dodson wrote. “Young students are being exposed to the virus while there is uncertainty as to the long-term effects of the virus and whether children can transmit the disease to adults.”

The appeals court panel disagreed, saying that “nothing in the emergency order requires any teacher or any student to return for in-person instruction at a brick-and-mortar school.”

“As to teachers, whether a school district assigns them to in-person instruction or virtual instruction is a matter between those teachers and their employing school districts,” said the appeals court opinion by Judge Lori S. Rowe. “Governor DeSantis, Commissioner Corcoran, and the other appellants have no say in the matter. And the school districts that do have a say are notably absent from this lawsuit.”

And while many students and their families have chosen virtual instruction, Rowe said, “parents of over 1.6 million students have decided that the benefits of students returning to school for in-person instruction outweigh any risks posed by COVID-19.”

The appeals court said the stay will remain in effect pending the outcome of the appeal over the injunction.

The FEA, the lead plaintiff in the challenge to the emergency order, said it was disappointed with the reinstatement of the stay.

“The reopening order is still unconstitutional, and local districts still should be allowed to make the best and safest decisions for everyone in their schools. We will press ahead in the appellate court,” FEA Vice President Andrew Spar said in a statement. “But we’re also looking to our districts. Schools already are struggling with Covid-19, and families need transparent information about what’s going on. The governor talks about choice, but real choice requires complete information. Educators and parents want solutions for dealing with the coronavirus outbreaks that already are occurring.”

But school districts never joined the legal fight (as the state and the appellate court repeatedly have pointed out). And even districts that had sought to delay the opening of brick-and-mortar schools beyond Aug. 31, such as Hillsborough County, were proceeding with plans to have face-to-face instruction resume today as the legal skirmishing continued.

At the Aug. 25 school board meeting of the 219,000 district covering the Tampa area, board members briefly heard updates about Dodson’s injunction. But they spent nearly three hours discussing and voting on a wide range of other matters related to the pandemic and the reopening of schools.

“This virus is a new way of life,” said Melissa Snively, the chair of the Hillsborough County school board. “It is probably never going away. We are going to have to continue to think about how education is going to change for our students after the first four weeks, after the first nine weeks. We’re going to be having conversations five years from now abut COVID-19.”


Today in History – August 30

On August 30, 1862, the Second Battle of Manassas(or Bull Run) ended a long campaign in northern Virginia. The campaign had begun when Union forces attempting to invade the Southern capital at Richmond were defeated just miles from the city. After the defeat near Richmond, the scattered Union forces under Major General John Pope clashed repeatedly with the Southern troops under Major General “Stonewall” Jackson. At the August 9 Battle of Cedar Mountain, Jackson’s Confederates outnumbered the Union troops two-to-one. After his easy victory there, Jackson retired from the field as Union reinforcements arrived.

Plan of 2nd battle of Bull Run, Va.: Shewing movements of troops from 27 Aug. to Sept. 1. Robert Knox Sneden, cartographer, [1861-65]. Civil War Maps. Geography & Map Division

While Pope’s Union army was engaged in fighting against General Robert E. Lee’s forces along the Rappahannock River, Jackson attempted to maneuver around to Pope’s rear in order to cut off his supply lines. Weary from inconclusive fighting along the Rappahannock, Pope decided to concentrate his forces and march on Jackson, who had succeeded in cutting off Pope’s supplies. A race was on for Pope to find and destroy Jackson before Lee could march his men to Jackson’s aid.

Rappahannock River, Va. Fugitive African Americans fording the Rappahannock. Timothy H. O’Sullivan, photographer, August 1862. Civil War Glass Negatives and Related Prints. Prints & Photographs Division

The Second Battle of Manassas(or Bull Run) began on August 28, when Pope marched his men into Jackson’s forces who were waiting near the town of Manassas. Jackson had set up his defenses at the site of the First Battle of Manassas that had ended in a Confederate victory just one year earlier. After some rough skirmishes, darkness fell, and both sides retired for the night.

Centreville, Va. The Principal Fort. George N. Barnard, photographer, March 1862. Civil War Glass Negatives and Related Prints. Prints & Photographs Division

Throughout the day of August 29, fighting raged up and down the line without a decisive victory. Pope’s Northerners broke through the Confederate defenses several times but were always pushed back. Throughout the night, Confederate movement to the west convinced Pope that the Southerners were preparing to retreat.

On the morning of August 30, Pope attacked the Confederates to the west, hoping to destroy the escaping Southern troops. Instead, he found 30,000 newly arrived reinforcements under General Robert E. Lee. The day was spent in fierce fighting; in the end, the Northerners were forced to retreat to nearby Centreville and, eventually, to the safety of Washington, D.C.

28th started for Manassas, arriving there 29th. 30th and 31st were engaged in the battle—the troops behaving with great coolness, courage and in perfect order—about 11 oclock at night left the battle field, (being the last regiment that left and having the credit of saving the artillery.) and bivouak’d that night at Centreville. Left the latter place Sept. 1st at 5 a.m. arriving at Chantilly at dusk—here occuring a sharp engagement (Battle of Chantilly) lasting till 10 oclock at night. (It rained furiously, and the conflict was in the woods.)

Walt Whitman, Notebook #94. Image 65. Thomas Biggs Harned Collection of Walt Whitman Papers. Manuscript Division

The Library of Congress holds more than forty of Walt Whitman’s notebooks. Whitman used the notebooks to record his thoughts and observations in prose and in poetry. During the Civil War, Whitman carried small notebooks with him on visits to wounded soldiers in hospitals. He jotted down stories that the soldiers told and took note of treats or supplies that he could bring to the men on return visits.


Today in History – August 29

At approximately 6:10 a.m., Central Daylight Time, on August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina, a Category 4 storm packing winds of 145 m.p.h., made landfall out of the Gulf of Mexico near Buras, Louisiana, and headed north towards the historic city of New Orleans, Louisiana, and the state of Mississippi. At 8:14 a.m., the New Orleans office of the National Weather Service issued a flood warning stating that the city’s Industrial Canal levee had been breached. Within an hour, the neighborhood known as the Lower Ninth Ward was under six-to-eight feet of water. By then the 17th Street Canal levee had failed as well, and the waters began to rise relentlessly throughout the city. Other levees and floodwalls also failed. By the next day, eighty percent of New Orleans lay underwater, in some areas to a height of twenty feet. And Katrina had moved on, still bearing winds of 120 m.p.h., to wreak havoc across the central Gulf Coast of the United States.

“And you remember, uh, even after we couldn’t pump no more. I thought I was dreamin’ for awhile. I thought I saw bodies—dead bodies—in—in the water—”


“—and floatin’.”

“I don’t b’lieve that was no dream. And you know what? It’s gon’ linger with us, it’s gon’ be with us, until the rest of my life i’ gone, y’know, it gonna linger, it gonna be there with me.”

Rufus Burkhalter and Bobby Brown, New Orleans Pump Station operators, in conversation remembering Hurricane Katrina. Audio recording by StoryCorps, archived at the American Folklife Center.

Allysa Lemoine, New Orleans, Louisiana/Brenda Ann Kenneally. Brenda Ann Kenneally, photographer, July 2006, 4/04/2011 [printed 4 April 2011]. Prints & Photographs Division.
Mississippi coast after Hurricane Katrina, 2006. Carol M. Highsmith, photographer, April 12, 2006. Highsmith(Carol M.)Archive. Prints & Photographs Division

Placed between a great river and a lake, New Orleans had fought hurricanes and flooding since its founding in 1717. Only two years later, a hurricane all but destroyed it. Yet New Orleans survived, as it had survived wars and changes of empire, to become a great and beautiful city, justly famed for its extraordinary braiding of cultures, the architecture of its romantic French Quarter and its humble shotgun houses, its distinctive creole cuisine, and perhaps most of all, its importance as the birthplace of jazz.

Plan of the city and suburbs of New Orleans: from an actual survey made in 1815. New York: Charles Del Vecchio; New Orleans: P. Maspero,1817. Louisiana: European Explorations and the Louisiana Purchase. Geography & Map Division

Hurricanes (called typhoons in the Pacific) have always been part of life and lore in what is now the southern and eastern United States. A French visitor described one in the vicinity of New Orleans early in September 1722:

Towards ten o’clock in the evening there sprang up the most terrible hurricane which has been seen in these quarters. At New Orleans thirty-four houses were destroyed as well as the sheds, including the church, the parsonage and the hospital. In the hospital were some people sick with wounds. All the other houses were damaged about the roofs or the walls.

It is to be remarked that if the Mississipy had been high this hurricane [an earlier storm] would have put both banks of the river more than 15 feet under water, the Mississipy, although low, having risen 8 feet.

“Journal of Diron D’Artaguiette, 1722-1723.” In Travels in the American Colonies, ed. under the auspices of the National Society of the Colonial Dames of America by Newton D. Mereness (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1916). p24. American Notes: Travels in America, 1750 to 1920. General Collections

[The Eureka Brass Band in procession down a street in the French Quarter, New Orleans]. 1962. United Press International telephoto; New York World-Telegram and the Sun Newspaper Photograph Collection. Prints & Photographs Division

On September 8, 1900, long before adequate meteorological warning systems had been developed, a devastating hurricane hit Galveston, Texas, and left much of it in ruins. In the storm and flooding that followed, more than 8,000 people died, the highest death toll in U.S. history for a natural disaster. Katrina, for all its horrors, cost less in life than the Galveston catastrophe, though television and other mass media allowed the nation and the world to witness the storm and its aftermath as they unfolded. More than 1,600 people died, a majority in Louisiana; more than 1.5 million people were scattered from their homes, many never to return; cities and towns, familiar landscapes and historic landmarks, lay smashed in Katrina’s wake; and the scar that this hurricane left on the American psyche was ineradicable.

Hurricane Katrina all but destroyed the historic home of Jefferson Davis. While many historic homes and buildings were lost, there were a number of important homes which were saved. Many of New Orleans’s iconic buildings were located in the wealthier neighborhoods on higher ground, and these were nearly untouched. Other treasures, such as the grand old oak trees of Government Street in Mobile, Alabama, or Biloxi, Mississippi’s beloved 1848 lighthouse, were amazingly spared. And in New Orleans and throughout the Gulf, in spite of all they had suffered, Americans returned and began to build again.

Home of Jefferson Davis. The mansion. Centennial Photographic Co., c1884; part of their International Exhibition in New Orleans, La., 1884-5. Prints & Photographs Division


Today in History – August 28

On August 28, 1963, one-hundred years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, approximately 200,000 to 250,000 people arrived in Washington, D.C., and peacefully marched down Constitution and Independence Avenues to the Lincoln Memorial, to rectify, in the words of A. Philip Randolph, “old grievances and to help resolve an American crisis.” Precipitating factors included the subjugation of African Americans to Jim Crow segregation and laws in practically every sector in society, a disproportionate level of high unemployment and unequal wages, and other forms of legal, economic, and social inequality.

A. Philip Randolph,…at the Lincoln Memorial, during 1963 March on Washington. United Press International, 1963. New York World-Telegram and the Sun Newspaper Photograph Collection. Prints & Photographs Division

The marchers, representing rural and urban areas from every corner of the nation, arrived by train, plane, bus, and car. Newspapers reported that the marchers were young and old; black, white, and brown. They were sharecroppers and socialites. The marchers were prayerful, jubilant, and tearful; embraced each other throughout the day and sang traditional spirituals such as “Oh Freedom,” “Ain’t Gon’ Let Nobody Turn Me Round,” and “We Shall Overcome.” These supporters of the March were in Washington to introduce ten levels of demands, of which the first was the demand for comprehensive and effective civil rights legislation that would guarantee all Americans: (1) access to all public accommodations, (2) decent housing, (3) adequate and integrated education, and (4) the right to vote. Other demands included: withholding Federal funds from all programs in which discrimination exists; a massive federal program to train and place all unemployed workers –black and white—on meaningful and dignified jobs with decent wages.

Signs Carried By Many Marchers, during the March on Washington, 1963. Mary S. Trikosko, photographer, [Aug. 28, 1963]. U.S. News & World Report Magazine Photograph Collection. Prints & Photographs Division

The six primary organizers and organizations for the March were: (1) James Farmer, National Director of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), (2) Reverend Martin Luther King, President of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), (3) John Lewis, Chairman of the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), (4) A. Philip Randolph, President of the Negro American Labor Organization, (5) Roy Wilkins, Executive Secretary of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and (6) Whitney Young, Executive Director of the Urban League. These leaders of prominent civil rights organizations came together to commemorate the centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation and to call attention to the atrocities African Americans were still experiencing. The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King gave his iconic “I Have a Dream”External speech on this occasion.

Copy of Photograph Showing Left to Right: John Lewis, Whitney Young, A. Philip Randolph, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., James Farmer, and Roy Wilkins. Bill Sauro, photographer, July 4, 1963. U.S. News & World Report Magazine Photograph Collection. Prints & Photographs Division.

The 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom drew attention to the systemic racism and the discrimination which African Americans still experience in education, housing, and jobs. It also called for Federal legislation to guarantee the right to vote for all Americans.

View of the Huge Crowd from the Lincoln Memorial…during the March on Washington. Warren K. Leffler, photographer, [Aug. 28, 1963]. U.S. News & World Report Magazine Photograph Collection. Prints & Photographs Division


Thousands of Mexican-American antiwar activists march in Chicano Moratorium

Month Day
August 29

On August 29, 1970, more than 20,000 Mexican-Americans march through East Los Angeles to protest the Vietnam War. The Chicano Moratorium, as this massive protest was known, was peaceful until the Los Angeles Police entered Laguna Park, sparking violence and rioting that led to three deaths. The Chicano Moratorium is now remembered both as the tragic end of one stage of Chicano activism and as a moment that galvanized and inspired a new generation of activists.

READ MORE: The Brutal History of Anti-Latino Discrimination in America

The march was planned as an entirely peaceful demonstration in support of peace and in protest of the Vietnam War, which claimed Latino lives at a disproportionately high rate. As demonstrators assembled in the park, the owner of a nearby liquor store called the police on some Chicano customers in the fear that they might begin shoplifting. When the LAPD responded, it assumed the protest had led to looting, and before long the police were storming the park with tear gas. Three people died and hundreds were arrested as riots spread throughout East LA. 

Among the dead was Ruben Salazar, a Los Angeles Times journalist often referred to as the voice of the local Chicano community; he was hit on the head with an LAPD tear gas canister. Salazar’s death, in particular, sparked outrage, and many believe that the police or the FBI, whose agents were present for the march, used the chaos as cover for the assassination of a prominent voice of dissent.

Many viewed the violence and Salazar’s death as a loss of innocence for the Chicano movement. For many, however, it was the beginning of a lifetime of activism and a moment that would forever encapsulate the community’s struggle for racial equality. Many prominent Chicano artists, activists and politicians were present at the rally. The former Laguna Park is now called Ruben F. Salazar Park.

READ MORE: Vietnam War Protests 


Today in History – August 27

On August 27, 1900, U.S. Army physician James Carroll allowed an infected mosquito to feed on him in an attempt to isolate the means of transmission of yellow fever. Carroll developed a severe case of yellow fever, helping his colleague, Army pathologist Walter Reed, prove that mosquitoes transmit this often-deadly disease.

Dr. J.C. Carroll. Smthsonian Report, 1921. pl.8. Prints & Photographs Division

Prior to these findings, epidemics of yellow fever were common in the American South. Uncertain of how the disease was transmitted, many people would leave the South for the summer, the season in which the epidemics were most common, returning after the first frost.

During the 1888 yellow fever epidemic in Jacksonville, Florida, the government offered railroad transportation out of the area. In a 1940 interview, William F. Hawley describes the scene of panic at the train station:

[The trains] were packed to the limit, even the roofs of the cars [were] crowded with terrified citizens…Some people in their haste left their homes with fires burning, food in preparation for the noonday meal, and doors wide open.

[William F. Hawley]. Rose Shepherd, interviewer; Arlington, Florida, June 24, 1940. American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936 to 1940. Manuscript Division

Corner of Forsyth and Hogan streets, Jacksonville, Fla. [between 1900-1915]. Detroit Publishing Company. Prints & Photographs Division

The Jacksonville epidemic began in the Mayflower Hotel which was “condemned and ordered burned to the ground,” according to Mr. Hawley. Many remedies were tried, such as burning barrels of tar in the street to disinfect the air and spraying a mixture of copper, sulfur, and lime in the homes of the infected.

Even doctors were at a loss for a means of stopping the spread of yellow fever. In the 1939 interview “Ruby Beach,” Mrs. Scull remembered that during the Jacksonville epidemic, Dr. Wiley, president of the Board of Health, warned her and her sister not to go into the room with their ill mother. “The surest way possible for you to get the fever is to go near her bed,” he warned. Her sister astonished the doctor by reporting, “I’ve slept there two nights, and I am all right.”

International Nickel Co. at Walter Reed Hospital. Medical staff at work IX, Walter Reed Hospital. Theodor Horydczak, photographer, ca. 1920 -1950. Horydczack Collection. Prints & Photographs Division


Webcast on Mindfulness and the New Back to School with Superintendent Runcie and James S. Gordon

Free Webcast on Mindfulness and the New Back to School

WHAT: Back to School: How to Meet the Challenge and Fulfill the Promise

Robert Runcie, Superintendent of Broward County Public Schools James S. Gordon, MD, Founder and Executive Director, The Center for Mind-Body Medicine

WHEN: Friday, August 28 at 3 p.m.

WHERE: Online. Please visit to register.

Join Robert Runcie, Superintendent of Broward County Public Schools (BCPS) and James S. Gordon, MD, Founder and Executive Director of The Center for Mind-Body Medicine (CMBM) on Friday, August 28 at 3 PM ET for a live webinar, “Back to School: How to Meet the Challenge and Fulfill the Promise.” You must register in advance for the event.

Superintendent Runcie and Dr. Gordon will explore what “back to school” means during the COVID-19 pandemic, the lessons we can learn during this challenging time, and the role that The Center for Mind-Body Medicine’s model plays in returning to school.

Since 2018, BCPS has collaborated with CMBM to train more than 500 teachers, clinicians, parents, community members, and youth peer counselors through our comprehensive wellness program.

Superintendent Runcie and Dr. Gordon will close the webcast with a brief Q and A. Submit your questions in advance on the registration form or send them to Ms. Lauren Baltimore,

View flyer for the FREE Webcast on Mindfulness and the New Back to School 


Today in History – August 26

On August 26, 1791, John Fitch and James Rumsey, rivals battling over claims to the invention, were each granted a federal patent for the steamboat. They devised different systems for their steamboats. Four years earlier, on August 22, 1787, Fitch demonstrated a steamboat—a Watt-type engine with a separate condenser that transmitted power to oars mounted to stroke in a paddle fashion. The forty-five-foot craft launched on the Delaware River in the presence of delegates from the Constitutional Convention. Rumsey’s craft was powered by direct force—jet propulsion. Fitch went on to build a larger steamboat that carried passengers and freight between Philadelphia and Burlington, New Jersey.

John Fitch’s Sketch and Description of Piston for Steamboat Propulsion, ca. 1795. John Fitch Papers in the Peter Force Papers. Manuscript Division

In a 1787 letter to Thomas Johnson, George Washington discussed Fitch’s and Rumsey’s claims from his own perspective.

Mr. Rumsey…at that time applying to the Assembly for an exclusive Act…spoke of the effect of Steam and…its application for the purpose of inland Navigation; but I did not conceive…that it was suggested as part of his original plan…It is proper however for me to add, that some time after this Mr. Fitch called upon me on his way to Richmond and explaining his scheme, wanted a letter from me, introductory of it to the Assembly of this State the giving of which I declined; and went so [far] as to inform him that tho’ I was bound not to disclose the principles of Mr. Rumsey’s discovery I would venture to assure him, that the thought of applying steam for the purpose he mentioned was not original but had been mentioned to me by Mr. Rumsey…

George Washington to Thomas Johnson, November 22, 1787. Series 2, Letterbooks 1754-1799: Letterbook 14, Feb. 11, 1787 – Feb. 22, 1788. George Washington Papers. Manuscript Division

Ben Campbell, Steamship at Landing. [between 1852 and 1860]. Daguerreotypes. Prints & Photographs Division

Nonetheless, Robert Fulton is generally credited as the inventor of the steamboat. In 1814, Fulton and Edward Livingston, the brother of Robert R. Livingston, brought commercial success to steamboating when they began to offer regular steamboat service between New Orleans, Louisiana, and Natchez, Mississippi. The boats traveled at the rates of eight miles per hour downstream and three miles per hour upstream. In 1816, Henry Miller Shreve launched his steamboat Washington, which completed the voyage from New Orleans to Louisville, Kentucky, in twenty-five days. Steamboat design continued to improve, so that by 1853, the trip to Louisville took only four and one-half days.

Between 1814 and 1834, New Orleans steamboat arrivals increased from 20 to 1,200 a year. The boats transported cargoes of cotton, sugar, and passengers. Throughout the East, steamboats contributed greatly to the economy by transporting agricultural and industrial supplies. In a 1938 interview, Iowan Joe Giesler, who was a steamboatman for fifty-four years, tells a story of a calamity that occurred while transporting a load of hogs upriver:

…we put [the hogs] on the boat and had them all penned up; as the boat was going up the river someone pulled the whistle; this scared the hogs and they broke through their pen and jumped over the side of the boat; and swam to shore. It took us two or three days to round them all up.

[Joe Giesler]. Edna B. Pearson, interviewer; Sioux City, Iowa, Nov. 15, 1938. American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936 to 1940. Manuscript Division

Steam propulsion and railroads developed separately, but it was not until railroads adopted the technology of steam that they began to flourish. By the 1870s, railroads had begun to supplant steamboats as the major transporter of both goods and passengers.

Launching Party, Str. Rochester, Wyandotte, Mich. 1910. Detroit Publishing Company. Prints & Photographs Division