Oliver Evans was an American inventor who was essential to the development of steam locomotion. After building a high pressure steam engine capable of sawing marble in the early 1800s, he set out to find financing for a steam powered carriage. When the Philadelphia Board of Health announced concerns about the problem of removing sandbars and dredging in the city’s dockyard, Evans was quick to offer a solution. He convinced the board to fund the build of an amphibious, steam powered dredging machine.
His efforts birthed the first self-propelled vehicle in the United States, which he tested for this first time on this day in 1805. It was also the first known self-powered amphibious vehicle in the world. Evans built the floating dredger and attached its engine to wheels so that he could drive it from dry storage into the river. By Evan’s accounts, it worked perfectly, but he was known to exaggerate his successes.