The idea of using a modified screw to propel a ship had been proposed as early as 1752. John Fitch experimented with a screw propeller before his steam paddle boat. Both the Bushnell (1777) and Fulton (1797) submarines used propellers. Of course a paddlewheel would not make sense for an underwater boat, so propellers were mandatory on submarines.
Several experiments were made with different versions of a screw
propeller. These assumed that a ship could be propelled not by sail,
oars, or paddlewheels, but by a modified version of the Archimedes
screw. One preferred design included a long tube enclosing a screw
shape, like the historical water lifting device called the Archimedes Screw.
Some did away with the tube, and just had a long screw. In 1834
Britain Francis Pettit Smith built one such long wooden screw to drive
his 237 ton ship Archimedes. In trials part of the long screw broke
off, and to everyone's surprise, instead of slowing the ship down, the
shorter screw speeded it up. More experiments arrived at a very short
screw shape, closer to what we know as a propeller. Steven's also successfully used propellers on his 1804 double prop steam boat.
At the same time in the U.S., Swedish born John Ericsson built a similar screw. His 1838 U.S. patent figures are shown below. His screw was a double propeller, and the two props were counter rotating. His screw pattern was explained in the patent as being based on spiral screws around a cylinder, like an Archimedes screw, but only a section of the cylinder was used.