Livingston pioneers in American transportation
the turn of the 19th century the Livingstons of New York had passed their
zenith in wealth and influence, although they were still wealthy and, as a
family, constituted a pillar of what could be called American aristocracy.
The 19th century would bring changes which eventually relegated the
colonial families of New York to secondary roles politically, socially but
before all, economically. Yet, the blood still ran strong enough in the
veins of some descendants of this highly prominent family, to produce
entrepreneurs and pioneers, most notably in the field of transportation.
Throughout the 19th century, Livingstons played an important part in the
development of the new highways of commerce, first as promoters of river
steam navigation, then in the express business and finally building
railroads in the Northwest.
Fulton & Livingston : steamships on the Hudson river
R. Livingston jr, the principal heir of the Clermont lineage of
Livingstons, was a prominent American statesman, known for his role in
drafting the Declaration of Independence, taking the oath of office from
George Washington as first president of the United States of America and
the Louisiana purchase, while he was US minister to France. But he also
entered the annals of history as the main financial backer of Robert
Fulton's pioneering steam navigation enterprise on the Hudson River. The
enterprise was actually much more Livingston than Fulton. 'Chancellor'
Livingston, as Robert R. jr was known in New York, had already
experimented with river steam navigation well before he met Robert Fulton
in France, notably in association with his brother-in-law, John Stevens of
Hoboken NJ, and Nicholas Roosevelt.
brought Robert Fulton to America and engaged him as chief engineer. The
design of the Clermont, the first steamship to make the historical journey
between New York and Albany in 1807, goes certainly to Fulton's credit, as
well as that of subsequent steamships. But as far as the business of
running steamships on the Hudson River was concerned, it was entirely
Livingston's initiative and Fulton hardly even owned some shares. The
companies which were popularly known as the Fulton-Livingston Steamship Co
(no such entity actually existed) exploited a monopoly for steam
navigation on the Hudson River for seventeen years, following the Clermont
run. They also pioneered steam navigation in the West, on the Mississippi
and Ohio rivers.
Livingstons with Wells, Fargo and American Express
known to any but the most initiated specialists, several descendants of
the Livingston family played a quite important part in the development of
another new form of transportation, which appeared in the fourth decade of
the 19th century : express services. At a time when the U.S. Postal
service did not handle parcels, the private express services became an
essential way of communication. Express services used steamships,
stagecoaches but before all railroads to haul their cargo of accompanied
freight (parcels), money and messages. Fueled by economic growth and
westward expansion, the express business became very profitable after its
first decade of existence. Its profitability was however also based on a
monopoly position, which was secured by the different contenders, thanks
to their effective acting in a cartel.
and Manor Lords >
Livingstons in Transportation : 1