History

Robert Livingston Stevens

Robert Livingston Stevens

Like his father and brothers, Robert had attended Columbia, but, unlike them, he had left before graduation to dedicate himself to work in machine shops in Hoboken in 1804-05. His enthusiasm for practical aspects of engineering had been encouraged by his father who had fostered Robert's use of tools and the instruments of mechanical drawing from an early age. Credited as being a marine engineer of the first rank, Robert Livingston Stevens lived in Hoboken all his life, first at the "villa" and then at "the castle" which he built three years before his death. He remained a bachelor and dedicated himself to the design, experimentation and implementation of inventions for the improvement of the family's transportation companies.

Often overlooked in popular accounts of the family are his technical improvements in steamboats and ferries which were praised in marine engineering circles. He designed the first concave waterlines on a steamboat (1808), the first supporting iron rods for projecting guard beams on steamboats (1815), the first skeleton walking beams for ferries (1822), the spring pile ferry slip (1822), the placement of boilers on guards outside the paddle wheels of ferries (1822), the hog frame or truss for stiffening ferry boats longitudinally (1827), spring steel bearings of paddle wheel shafts (1828), and improved packing for pistons (1840), and he was the first to successfully burn anthracite coal in a cupola furnace (1818).