A postcard from France landed in my mailbox on Monday (not for me : it’s just for an address close to mine, so I will put it back in the mail). But hey – let me check out this postage stamp first, I thought. It celebrates the bicentennial of ‘steam navigation’ (vapeur is French for steam). The first successful steamboat was invented by the nobleman Marquis de Jouffroy.
Here’s a blurb from WIRED magazine about the cutting edge steam boat technology of that time : ‘The Pyroscaphe (Greek for ‘fire boat’) steamed upstream at 6 mph without a sail, and the crowds cheered this technological marvel. But after 15 minutes, the boat began to break up under the pounding of the engine. De Jouffroy quickly and cannily steered the boat ashore, and then bowed to the cheering multitudes’.