Josiah Hornblower Makes Things Steamy

Josiah Hornblower Makes Things Steamy

Josiah Hornblower brought steam power to American for the first time.

Hornblower’s work helped bring efficient mining to the United States. Additionally, his work assisted in sweeping the Industrial Revolution to the country.

Oh, and did I mention he served in the Continental Congress?


When modern Americans think about steam-power, we generally picture train engines.  However, the original reason for steam-power’s invention was to assist with mining.

In the early 18th century, mines would easily flood, and the steam engines were used to pump water out.  This gave miners the opportunity to dig deeper and deeper and therefore make each mine more profitable.

The steam engines had been popping up all over England when members of the powerful Schuyler Family brought Josiah Hornblower across the pond.

Josiah Hornblower

Josiah Hornblower’s father and older brother were early steam engine builders who passed on their knowledge of the trade to 25-year-old Josiah.

When Hornblower arrived in America, he was stationed in northern New Jersey and asked to construct an engine which drained a copper mine on the Passaic.  This task was completed, and it became the first means of power in the modern United States that was not generated by man, horse or water.

Becoming American

Over the ensuing twenty-year period, Josiah became more and more American.  He served in the New Jersey militia for a brief period during the French and Indian War, though there is no record of him seeing action.

During this time, Hornblower became wealthy as a merchant.  He specialized in hardware and was trusted in the field due to his experience building engines.


By the onset of the American Revolution, Hornblower had spent half of his life in America and felt it was his home.  He immediately sided with the Revolutionaries and, beginning in 1777, spent three years in the New Jersey State Assembly.  During the final year of his term, he was chosen by his colleagues to be the Assembly’s Speaker.

Josiah was then promoted to the Legislative Council.  At the time, this Council acted as a mix between the government’s Upper House and the Governor’s Cabinet.

After four years on the Council, Hornblower was trusted to represent New Jersey in the Continental Congress.


After the Constitution was ratified, Hornblower attempted to sit back into private life.  He was chosen, however, to be a County Judge for the rest of his life…the better part of twenty years.

Hornblower also built several steam engines and mills throughout New Jersey.  This included the first stamping mill in the United States. A stamping mill used a steam engine to crush ore which was pulled from the mine, speeding up the entire process.

Due to his introduction of steam-power to America, Josiah Hornblower played an integral part in the germination of the Industrial Revolution in the United States.

If you like this article, you might be interested my article about John Stevens III which also discusses steam-power during the American Revolution. Read it here.

To read more about Hornblower, check out William Neslon’s bio about him which can be read for FREE here.

If you want to learn more about how steam power affected the American Revolutionary Period (or if you just like Steampunk that ACTUALLY HAPPENED) check out ‘The Untold Story of America’s First Great Invention’ through the affiliate link below.

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