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In this fictionalized account of the invention of the first successful steamboat, Clermont, engineer and inventor Robert Fulton (Richard Greene) comes to New York in 1807, where he meets tavern keeper Pat O'Day (Alice Faye). O'Day strongly supports Fulton and his visionary steamship, but her suitor Charles Browne (Fred MacMurray) isn't happy about her association with the dapper engineer, or his invention. With O'Day's help, Fulton obtains the financing needed to build his revolutionary paddle steamer, while Browne manages to turn every local deck hand and sail-powered passenger boat operator against the engineer, exploiting their fear of losing their livelihoods to a steam-powered vessel. In the end, against adversity and opposition, Fulton finally builds his new steamboat Clermont and launches her to great success, silencing his critics who had labeled it "Fulton's Folly."