Before 1807, boats were driven by either man power or wind power. After that, a man named Robert Fulton brought a steam engine from England and attached it to his boat. It was much faster than much boats, in fact, he could go upstream from New York to Albany in 32 hours. This showed that the steamboat could be very useful in American commerce. Especially for the West, because now they had brought their products to New Orleans. They could go back upstream in a steam boat, which was a great help to them. The steamboat was driven by a high pressure engine that was very light. Oliver Evans invented this type of engine. The high pressure engines were very fast. In order to keep up pressure, they would burn lots of wood. The only problem is that the boilers would sometimes explode. Some of the steamboats could operate in only thirty inches of water. They were very light and fast, and they were very inexpensive to build. There were lots of accidents with them, because there were no safety valves on the crude boilers, and unlimited speed resulted in many disasters. They were known to westerners as "brag boats." They would race each other up and down the river. Nearly a third of all the speedboats built before the mid 1800s were destroyed in accidents, which killed many passengers. Sometimes, the owners of the steamboats sent the passengers who hadn't paid yet, because if there was an explosion, it was less likely for them to be killed, and they could pay the fair.
Congratulations! You are the person to learn about steamboats.