First Sailing Steamship


Meet the Experts: “Steam Coffin” presentation

Saturday, April 21 from 11am to 12pm

Steam Coffin is the story of New London native Captain Moses Rogers who’s first sailing “steamship” broke the barriers of fear and skepticism to open the seas for steam-powered shipping.

In 1807 Robert Fulton declared his intent to build an experimental “steamboat.” In the years following Fulton’s success, running these steamboats on rivers, lakes and bays became a normal and accepted part of American life. But taking such a vessel on a voyage across the ocean was a different proposition altogether. Experienced mariners didn’t think it could be done, but sloop captain Moses Rogers believed otherwise. Combining his knowledge of the old mode of transport (sail) with the new mode of transport (steam), he set out to design a vessel that was capable of overcoming the many perils at sea. This craft would be not a steamboat, but a “steamship,” the first of its kind. She was named Savannah. This presentation will show how Captain Rogers designed and built this revolutionary vessel…nearly two centuries ago!

Finding a crew for such a new-fangled contraption proved to be exceedingly difficult.  Mariners—conditioned as they were to “knowing the ropes” of a sailing ship—looked upon this new vessel, and its unnatural means of propulsion, with the greatest suspicion.  To them, it was not a “Steam Ship”—instead, it was a “Steam Coffin.”

John Laurence Busch is an independent historian who focuses upon the interaction between humanity and technology, specializing in the first generation of steam-powered vessels. He has devoted years of research to discovering the true story of Captain Moses Rogers and the steamship Savannah. The result is STEAM COFFIN, described by numerous book reviewers as the definitive account of what truly is America’s sea saga. John has made over 300 presentations on Captain Rogers and the Savannah to a wide variety of audiences, stretching from Maine to Puerto Rico to California, and across the Atlantic Ocean to Europe.

The Meet the Expert series takes place on the third Saturday of each month. This unique opportunity to hear thematic talks from experts in their respective fields will include a 45-minute lecture and 15-minute Q&A. Meet the Experts is included in your admission price and is free to all members of the museum.

Below is a link to the Busch book on the subject.

National Museum of Industrial History

602 E 2nd St

Bethlehem, PA 18015