Inventors in England attempted to apply steam power to vessels on the water as early as the 1720s. However working steamboats only began to become feasible in 1781 when Scottish engineer James Watt patented a steam engine that produced continuous rotary motion. By 1803 the steamboat Charlotte Dundas designed by the Scottish engineer William Symington was in operation. It inspired the American, Robert Fulton, who was present at its trials, and was intrigued by the potential of the steamboat. After some trials in Europe Fulton had a Boulton and Watt steam engine shipped to America, where his first proper steamship was built in 1807. Fulton's North River Steamboat (later known as Clermont) carried passengers between New York City and Albany, New York along the Hudson River. The Clermont was able to make the 150-mile (240 km) trip in 32 hours. The Clermont was the first commercially successful steamboat.
By 1817 various steamboats were in operation. This hand-colored print published by Ackermann shows one paddle-wheel steamer designed by Barrodell Robert Dod. In the left background is a steamboat of "American design".