Scope and arrangement
Between the years 1797 and 1804 Robert Fulton worked in France and England developing a system submarine warfare. Fulton foresaw the complete freedom of the seas from naval blockade for the free trade of nations and set about a way to obtain this through the use of submarine vessels. Fulton lived with American ambassador to France from 1797 to 1804; initially to expand on his work of as designer of canals, which he had spent the past four years designing in England. Using Barlow's connection to Napoleon, Fulton soon found himself designing his "Nautilus", a boat that was able to plunge beneath the water and fasten a torpedo to an enemy ship's hull. Although he successfully demonstrated the destructive power of his Nautilus twice and had the support of Napoleon's scientific consultants; Napoleon ultimately decided Fulton was a charlatan and extortionist due to his lack of formal scientific education and unwillingness to disclose drawings of his boats mechanisms.
Not content with his treatment in France, Fulton returned to England in 1804 to petition the government to adopt his system of submarine warfare. In 1805 Fulton was unsuccessful at an attempt at destroying a French ship for the British with one of his torpedoes. Unable to secure a contract with the English, having spent the past seven years with little to show, Fulton returned to America in 1806.
The Parsons collection of Fultoniana contains drawings, the manuscript treatise "Motives for Inventing Submarine Navigation" and the accompanying "Description of the Drawings of the Submarine Vessel" (1806), and facsimiles of Fulton's correspondence and writings. Also present are publications by and about Fulton.
Of particular note are Fulton's watercolor and ink drawings from his treatise "On Submarine Navigation and Attack". Parsons asserts in his book that Fulton had left the treatises and paintings in England in case he died while returning to America in 1906. Several of the documents and the paintings are described in detail in Parsons' volume on Fulton's submarine.
The William Barclay Parsons collection of Robert Fulton manuscripts are arranged in four series:
- 1806In cloth portfolio. Each drawing 19" x 23"
Seven original watercolor drawings relating to Fulton's invention of the submarine.