Author Archives: jamesrumsey

The Rumseian Society changes

After almost 40 years, the officers and members of the Society decided this year to discontinue it as a 501(c)3 non-profit corporation in the State of West Virginia. The Society had ceased to demonstrate the Experiment , and both the steamboat and the James Rumsey Boathouse had been made a part of the Shepherdstown Museum. The active members were aging, and with no need for massive fundraising for new projects or a corporate structure to administer old ones it was time to revert to a loose collection of friends who periodically meet for pizza and discuss pre-industrial technology.

This is the third Rumseian Society. The first was created to develop the inventor’s designs, and it ended with his death. The second was created to build the Rumsey Monument, and it ended with the official transfer of the Monument and Park to the town. This, the third, was founded by Jay Hurley and John Farrior in 1983 to build a replica of Rumsey’s steamboat for the 1987 bicentennial of the original. It may be that another purpose will arise, to create another version of the Society. But, in the meantime, this website will continue to be maintained, questions about James Rumsey answered, and the Annual Meeting will continue.

Old Technology, Modern Ideas

You’ve reached the Rumseian Society, of Shepherdstown, West Virginia.

The Society was first created in Philadelphia, in 1788, to further the inventive career of James Rumsey, and was disbanded with his death, in 1792. It was re-created in 1903 in Shepherdstown, to build the Rumsey Monument that still stands overlooking the Potomac, and was re-created again in 1984 to build the Rumseian Experiment, a replica of James Rumsey’s 1787 steamboat. The Experiment steamed for the last time in 2007, but it can still be seen in the Rumsey Boathouse Museum in Shepherdstown.

The current Society project is the building of Rumsey’s rotary steam engine. If it is successful, we hope to mount it on a boat.

Portrait of Rumsey by West, Smithsonian Museum of American Art

Alexander Botelers Sketch of Rumsey's Portrait

Label from an apple crate, circa 1930?

Rumsey's apparatus for testing water turbines

James Rumsey. Photo of the West portrait in Turner's biography: retouching has changed him considerably