Early life and family
Robert Fulton was born on a farm in Little Britain, Pennsylvania, on November 14, 1765. He had three sisters – Isabella, Elizabeth, and Mary, and a younger brother,
Abraham. Fulton's father, Robert, had been a close friend to the father of painter Benjamin West. Fulton later met West in England and they became friends.
A drawing of Fulton's invention "Nautilus"
Fulton stayed in Philadelphia for six years, where he painted portraits and landscapes, drew houses and machinery, and was able to send money home to help support his mother. In 1785 he bought a farm at Hopewell Township in Washington County for £80 Sterling and moved his mother and family into it. While in Philadelphia, he met Benjamin Franklin, (1705/1706-1790), known for both his political and writing abilities and his scientific and inventing knowledge, as well as other prominent figures. At the age of 23 he decided to visit Europe.
On January 8, 1808, Fulton married Harriet Livingston (1786–1824), the niece of Robert Livingston and daughter of Walter Livingston. They had four children: Robert, Julia, Mary, and Cornelia.