September 20, 2001 Historians Kirkpatrick Sale and Thomas P. Somma to Discuss "Robert Fulton: The Man and the Image" at the Library of Congress on October 16

Press Contact: Craig D'Ooge (202) 707-9189
Public Contact: Center for the Book (202) 707-5221

The life and artistic portrayal of Robert Fulton (1765-1815), the engineer who designed and built the first commercially successful steamboat, will be presented by historians Kirkpatrick Sale and Thomas P. Somma at the Library of Congress at 6 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 16, in the Mumford Room, sixth floor, James Madison Memorial Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E. Part of the Center for the Book's "Books & Beyond" author series, the program is free and open to the public. No tickets are required.

Kirkpatrick Sale's new biography, The Fire of His Genius: Robert Fulton and the American Dream (Free Press, 2001), has received excellent reviews. Library Journal called it a "superb, beautifully written" book that "personalizes the relatively obscure life of a self-taught tinkerer who had a genius for self-promotion and exploiting the discoveries of others." Mr. Sale is a contributing editor for Nation magazine. The Fire of His Genius, a Book-of-the-Month Club and History Book Club selection, is his 10th book of history and social commentary.

Robert Fulton was honored twice in the Library of Congress Jefferson Building when it opened in 1897. He is one of the 16 historical figures (and three Americans) commemorated by bronze statues along the Main Reading Room's upper level balustrade, and he was one of 29 world "Inventors" honored in the second floor Southeast Gallery, today the home of the Library's Hispanic Division. In his presentation, Thomas Somma, Director of the Mary Washington College Galleries at Mary Washington College in Fredericksburg, Virginia, will discuss the Fulton statue in the Library of Congress and three other Fulton images in the U.S. Capitol Building. Mr. Somma's publications include an essay on the sculpture in the Jefferson Building in The Library of Congress: The Art and Architecture of the Thomas Jefferson Building (W.W. Norton Co., 1997).

The Center for the Book in the Library of Congress was established in 1977 to stimulate public interest in books, reading, and libraries. For information about its program, publications, and the activities of its affiliated centers in 42 states and the District of Columbia, visit its Web site at


PR 01-122
ISSN 0731-3527