John Stevens III
|Treasurer of New Jersey|
|Born||June 24, 1749|
New York City, Province of New York, British America
|Died||March 6, 1838 (aged 88)|
Hoboken, New Jersey, U.S.
(m. 1782; his death 1838)
|Children||13, including John, Robert, Edwin|
|Alma mater||Kings College|
Col. John Stevens, III (June 26, 1749 - March 6, 1838) was an American lawyer, engineer, and inventor who constructed the first U.S. steam locomotive, first steam-powered ferry, and first U.S. commercial ferry service from his estate in Hoboken. He was influential in the creation of U.S. patent law.
Stevens was born June 26, 1749, in New York City, New York. He was the only son of John Stevens Jr. (1715-1792), a prominent state politician who served as a delegate to the Continental Congress, and Elizabeth Alexander (1726-1800). His sister, Mary Stevens (d. 1814), married Robert R. Livingston, the first Chancellor of the State of New York.
His maternal grandparents were James Alexander (1691-1756), the Attorney General of New Jersey, and Mary (née Spratt) Provoost Alexander (1693-1760), herself a prominent merchant in New York City. His paternal grandfather, John Stevens, emigrated from London England around 1695, and was married to Mary Campbell.
After his graduation from King's College, he studied law and was admitted to the bar of New York City in 1771. He practiced law in New York and lived across the river. At public auction, he bought from the state of New Jersey a piece of land which had been confiscated from a Tory landowner. The land, described as "William Bayard's farm at Hoebuck" comprised approximately what is now the city of Hoboken. Stevens built his estate at Castle Point, on land that would later become the site of Stevens Institute of Technology (bequeathed by his son Edwin Augustus Stevens).
In 1776, at age 27, he was appointed a Captain in Washington's army in the American Revolutionary War. During the War, he was promoted to Colonel and became Treasurer of New Jersey, serving from 1776 to 1779.
In 1790, Stevens petitioned Congress for a bill that would protect American inventors. Through his efforts, his bill became a law on April 10, 1790, which introduced the patent system as law in the United States.
In 1802, he built a screw-driven steamboat and in 1806, he built the Phoenix, a steamboat that ultimately sailed from Hoboken to Philadelphia in 1809, thereby becoming the first steamship to successfully navigate the open ocean.
The first railroad charter in the U.S. was given to Stevens and others in 1815 for the New Jersey Railroad. The charter essentially gave Stevens and his partners, through the Camden & Amboy Railroad, a monopoly on railroads in the state of New Jersey. In 1825, he designed and built a steam locomotive, which he operated on a circle of track at his estate in Hoboken, New Jersey. He also helped develop United States patent law.
On October 17, 1782, he married Rachel Cox (1761-1839), the daughter of John Cox. She was a descendant of the Langeveldts (or Longfields) who originally settled New Brunswick, New Jersey. Together, they had thirteen children of which seven were sons. The children included: