Exploding Steamboats, Senate Debates, and Technical Reports (Technical Communications Series): The Convergence of Technology, Politics, and Rhetoric in the Steamboat Bill of 1838by R. John Brockmann
By 1838, over two thousand Americans had been killed and many hundreds injured by exploding steam engines on steamboats. After calls for a solution in two State of the Union addresses, a Senate Select Committee met to consider an investigative report from the Franklin Institute of Philadelphia, the first federally funded investigation into a technical catastrophe. Although the investigation report was well written by the top scientists of the day, and the authors included an effective bill to correct the technical problems of steam engines and stop the fatalities and injuries, the bill was drawn up with a key segment X-ed out. As a result, the wrong piece of legislation was passed by the House and Senate and signed into law by President Van Buren as the United States’ first piece of interstate commerce legislation. The explosions and deaths aboard steamboats continued for another fourteen years before corrective legislation was passed. Exploding Steamboats investigates the rhetoric, politics, and technology of antebellum America, offering timeless insights into the nature of writing, reading, and public control of technology.Intended Audience: Technical communication writers; teachers and students of technical communications; historians of technology.
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