Isaac Briggs

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Isaac Briggs (1763-1825) was an American engineer, surveyor and manufacturer during the Early Republic. He lived much of his adult life with his family in Brookeville, Maryland.[1] Briggs was born in Haverford, Pennsylvania in 1763 to Samuel and Mary Briggs, two Quakers. He studied engineering at the College of Pennsylvania (the University of Pennsylvania today), where he graduated with a bachelor's degree in 1783 and a master's degree in 1786. After his graduation, Briggs traveled, moving to Georgia and Georgetown, Washington, D.C. before he married Hannah Brooke and settled near Brookeville in Montgomery County, Maryland.[1]

On 1 February 1788, the Georgia legislature awarded Augusta inventor William Longstreet and his associate Isaac Briggs a patent for a steam engine. It is the only patent issued by the state because this was before the adoption of the Federal Constitution. In 1807 their engine was used to power a boat on a 5-mile journey against the current on the Savannah River. Only days before, Robert Fulton had sailed his new steamboat, the Clermont, from New York City up the Hudson River to Albany.)[2]

Briggs was a renowned surveyor and engineer. During 1791-1792, he assisted Andrew Ellicott in the survey of the boundaries of the original District of Columbia (see Boundary Markers of the Original District of Columbia).[3] In 1803 President Thomas Jefferson appointed him to be the Surveyor General of the Mississippi Territory.[4] He was also one of many chief engineers of the Erie Canal in New York and served as a chief engineer in Virginia on the James River and Kanawha Canal. He was also devoted to developing domestic agriculture and manufacturing. He co-founded the American Board of Agriculture and a cotton mill and manufacturing town at Triadelphia in Montgomery County, Maryland.[5] Additionally, Briggs was a devout Quaker and a member of the American Philosophical Society. He was close friends with both Thomas Jefferson and James Madison and was well-respected in his community.[1]

Briggs became ill while working on the James River and Kanawha Canal in Virginia. He died at "Sharon," his family's home, in 1825.[6]


  1. ^ a b c "Isaac Briggs (1763-1825)". Maryland State Archives. Retrieved 12 November 2013. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ Mathews, Catharine Van Cortlandt (1908). "Chapter IV: The City of Washington in the Territory of Columbia, 1791–1793". Andrew Ellicott: His Life and Letters. Grafton Press. pp. 81–86.  At Google Books.
  4. ^ "Isaac Briggs". Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia. Retrieved 12 November 2013. 
  5. ^ Barnard, Ella Kent (1912). "Isaac Briggs, A.M., F.A.P.S". Maryland Historical Magazine. 7: 409–419. 
  6. ^ "Isaac Briggs Death Notice". Richmond Enquirer. 13 January 1825. 

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