Robert Fulton had built the first commercially viable steamboat, the North River Steamboat (later shortened to just "North River"), also known erroneously as the Clermont, two years earlier, in 1807. The North River was a common appellation for the Hudson river at the time, and Clermont was Robert Livingston's Estate on the Hudson. Livingston was responsible for the money behind the venture. The misnomer came from an early biography of Fulton written two years after his death in 1815.
The North River was far from the first steamboat, as the first successful steamboat to sail was built in 1776 in France. Fulton was the first to operate a steamboat commercially, running a the North River Steamboat from New York City to Albany. The boat was able to do the trip in an impressive 36 Hours, with a variety of stops along the way at towns along the Hudson river.
By 1819 there were a total of nine steamboats operating in the Hudson River, and by 1840 there were over 100. Fulton, who had been ridiculed when he first developed the boat, also referred to disparagingly as Fulton's Folly, had brought the era of the steamboat into being.