James Rees 1821-1889
Inventor and manufacturer was born in Wales and left fatherless shortly after his arrival in the United States at the age of seven. He first earned his living pushing coal cars, worked in a steam- boat engine shop, and demonstrated early on a flair for mechanics. Rees made his first fortune after oil was discovered in Titusville at Drake’s Well. His fleet of five packets made daily trips on the Allegheny River between Duquesne way and Franklin, and he operated a line of freight boats as well until 1865.
In 1845 he established James Rees (later renamed James Rees & Sons) to manufacture steamboats and engines that were known all over the world. He built iron and steel steamboats and manufactured marine and land engines, boilers, etc. for leading packet companies along the Ohio, Mississippi, Miss- ouri and their tributaries.
James Rees & Sons built the first steel-hulled boat in America in 1878 which was known as the Francisco Montoya, for the officials of the Magdalena Steam Navigation Company of South America. Four years later the firm built The Kate Adams for the Memphis and Arkansas City Packet Com- pany of Memphis, Tennessee. This was the first steamer on western and southern rivers to adopt the Edison Electtric Light System throughout every department.
The firm, famous for its mail packets and powerful tow-boats, also built the large transfer steamer for railroads that connects across the St. Lawrence river, and built boats that ran on the rivers of Venezuela, Brazil, Columbia in South America; also Central America, Mexico, Canada and the Volga River in Russia.