"On the whole coast of America there is not another alarm equal to the one spoken of...”
Captain Winchester, SS Eastern City, 1860
Before the invention of the foghorn by Scottish-born inventor, civil engineer, and artist Robert Foulis (1796- 1866), harbor towns relied on cannons or bells to guide ships into port in foggy conditions. One such harbor town, Saint John in New Brunswick, Canada, welcomed a new civil engineer when Foulis settled there in 1825. It is likely that Foulis witnessed the 1832 installation of a "warning bell" at Partridge Island, just over half a mile (0.8 km) from Saint John.
Partridge Island's new bell, a behemoth at 0.5 tons, helped to bring ships into port, but the need for louder warnings, along with the limitations of bell construction, had mariners crying out for an alternative. Foulis's 1852 offering was a steam-powered automated foghorn with a deep warning sound. more...