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They Made America: "Revolutionaries"

"Revolutionaries" highlights pioneering thinkers like John Fitch, who committed suicide before his eccentric invention, a steam-powered boat, transformed the commerce of a young nation. The steamboat would ultimately ply America's waterways thanks to Robert Fulton's salesmanship and zeal.

"The most important thing for an innovator isn't necessarily being first," notes author Harold Evans. "It's being able to put together a combination that works."

Lewis Tappan certainly did just that, using the profits of a successful store that he and his brother ran in New York City to further the anti-slavery cause. Then, after the business went bankrupt, he used his network of abolitionist lawyers to systematically report on the credit worthiness of out-of-town retailers who wanted to buy goods in New York -- an enterprise that later became Dun & Bradstreet.

Innovators profiled in "Revolutionaries":

Robert Fulton's passion was to blow up warships, but his enduring triumph was in the creation of the world's first successful steamboat services.

John Fitch, a frontiersman whose life was often at risk, escaped with an idea that became the Delaware River's first steamboat.

Lewis Tappan, an evangelist crusader, pioneered the credit rating and reporting system.

Samuel Colt, a reckless spendthrift, created his own myth, a legendary weapon -- and a mass market.

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page created on 6.30.2004
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