The Royal Navy, Ruler of the Seas

From Sail to Steam

A Technological Transformation

At the dawn of the nineteenth century, naval technology had not undergone a major transformation for 200 years. Then in 1807 the Clermont, a small steamship invented by the American Robert Fulton, went up the Hudson River from New York to Albany in 32 hours. This was an incredible speed record, and it marked the beginning of a naval revolution. For the first time since the beginning of navigation, man was now able to free himself from the winds. A few visionary traders, including the Canadian brewer John Molson, immediately saw the usefulness of the invention. In 1809, in Montreal, Molson launched the second steamship in the world; it was called the Accommodation and it made its maiden roundtrip voyage between Montreal and Quebec City in 33 hours. Other steamships were brought into service in the following years. In Quebec City the British staff saw how useful these ships could be for the rapid transportation of troops. During the War of 1812 the Swiftsure, also built by Molson, often transported soldiers between Quebec City and Montreal, a practice that continued in peacetime on the Lady Sherbrooke, among other ships.