On February 1, 1788 Isaac Briggs and William Longstreet patented the steamboat. But Robert Fulton patented a modified design for a steamboat on February 11, 1809. Fulton's design was a commercial success.
The first regular steamboat service from the west to the east coast of the United States began on February 28, 1849 with the arrival of the SS California in San Francisco Bay. The California left New York Harbor on October 6, 1848, rounded Cape Horn at the tip of South America, and arrived at San Francisco, California after the 4 month 21 day journey.
Early steamboats were paddlewheelers with large coal powered paddlewheels either on the sides or at the rear of the vessel. These were suitable to calm river and coastal shipping, but could not cross oceans as the paddle wheels would be swamped by waves and the amount of coal necessary would take up most of the ship.
By 1870, however, a number of invetions, such as the screw propeller and the steam turbine made trans-oceanic shipping economically viable. This began the earliest era of globalization where trade around the world became cheap and safe.