This Day in History
First American Steam Locomotive

First American Steam Locomotive
March 5, 1831

No nation ever expanded as rapidly as the United States, or as vastly. How did it hold together? A network of roads, rivers, and canals, however elaborate, was wholly inadequate. The railroad - invented almost simultaneously in England and America - was the answer. George Stephenson was the steam-operated-locomotive pioneer in Britain, and his Rocket made a first run in 1825; John Stevens, an American, had anticipated the feat by a few months, but only by a trial run on his own estate. By the end of the 1820’s a dozen projects were under way - the Baltimore and Ohio, the Charleston and Hamburg, the Mohawk and Hudson, the Boston and Lowell among them. The first to achieve success was that built by a group of South Carolina industrialists who formed a company to build tracks connecting Charleston with the Savannah River town of Hamburg. They laid down no less than 136 miles of track - the longest railroad in the world at that time. In December 1830, The Best Friend of Charleston made its trial run on the newly built tracks; a few months later, a new and more powerful locomotive, the West Point, also pictured here, pulled out on a trial of speed, with barrier car and four cars for the 117 passengers - 50 of whom were women.

March's Archived Features:

Wednesday March 1, 2023
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Tuesday March 28, 2023
Wednesday March 29, 2023
Thursday March 30, 2023



All illustrations by Mort Künstler. Text by Michael Aubrecht, Dee Brown, Henry Steele Commager, Rod Gragg, Mort Künstler, Edward Lengel, James McPherson, and James I. Robertson, Jr. - Copyright © 2001-2019. All Rights Reserved. No part of the contents of this web site may be reproduced or utilized in any form by any means without written consent of the artist.