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Legacies: Collecting America's History at the Smithsonian, by Steven Lubar and Kathleen M. Kendrick
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Steam engine and boiler designed by John Stevens, 1804Steam engine and boiler designed by John Stevens, 1804

John Fitch, James Rumsey, Robert Fulton, and John Stevens all claimed credit for the first successful American steamboat, and material relating to each of their boats has been saved as relics at the Smithsonian. This engine and boiler, from Stevens's Little Juliana, represent the first successful use of a screw propeller. The "oldest surviving steam power plant built in America," according to its exhibit label, Stevens's engine was displayed at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893 and then sent to the Smithsonian.

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