- James Rumsey demonstrated what many believe was the first steamboat in the U. S. in 1787.
- John Fitch, a metal craftsman and inventor who constructed four different steamboats, obtained the exclusive privilege of building and operating steamboats on all the waters of New York State in 1787.
- Robert R. Livingston, chancellor of New York, statesman, diplomat, farmer, and experimenter became interested in steamboats in the 1790s and funded Robert Fulton’s experiments. He secured the grant of a monopoly on steam navigation in New York State in 1798.
- John Stevens was an engineer, inventor, and promoter of steam transportation, whose petition to the U.S. Congress resulted in the Patent Law of 1790.
- Robert Fulton, an artist, civil engineer, and inventor, formed an agreement with Livingston to build steamboats to run between Albany and New York City.
- Nicholas J. Roosevelt, an inventor and engineer who owned a foundry in New Jersey, entered into an agreement with Robert R. Livingston and John Stevens in about 1797 to build the engines for their steamboats.
- James Van Ingen was one of the investors who built the steamboats Hope and Perseverance and became plaintiffs in the first court case challenging the Livingston-Fulton monopoly.
- Aaron Ogden, the defendant in Gibbons vs. Ogden, paid Fulton and Livingston for a monopoly to run his ferry between Elizabethtown Point (N.J.) and New York City, which eventually brought him into conflict with the line operated by Thomas Gibbons.
- Thomas Gibbons, the plaintiff in Gibbons vs. Ogden, was initially a partner of Aaron Ogden, but later started competing with him, leading to a series of court battles that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
- James Kent, a jurist and legal commentator, issued many of the decisions related to the cases tried in New York State courts that eventually culminated in the U.S. Supreme Court's Gibbons vs. Ogden decision.
- John Marshall was chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court at the time of Gibbons vs. Ogden (1824).