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Tom Thumb

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• Peter Cooper


Definition: First steam locomotive built and tested in the United States. Peter Cooper built the Tom Thumb for the newly Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. Cooper wanted the railroad to use machines instead of horses for power. To prove his point, Cooper offered to race the Tom Thumb against a horse. On August 28, 1830, the Tom Thumb rolled along a track, pulling a wagonload of people. Alongside the engine ran a horse. Faster and faster they both went, until the Tom Thumb lost a part and slowed down. The horse won, but B&O officials were convinced of the power and the promise of the locomotive.

Related Resources:
The History of the Railroad
Learn more about the "Iron Horse" and its history in America.

The Industrial Revolution
Find out more about how machines and factories changed American society forever.

Elsewhere on the Web:
The Story of the Tom Thumb
More about this famous engine, including an image.

Birth of the Locomotive
Read more about the invention and experimentation of the railroad engine in America.

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