Interesting Facts about the Erie Canal In a grand ceremony, Clinton and other dignitaries boarded the Seneca Chief in Buffalo and traveled the length of the canal. During the presidency of Thomas Jefferson, prominent citizens of New York State pushed to have the federal government finance a canal that would proceed westward from the Hudson River. You can change your answer if you want. "Building the Erie Canal." It connected Akron with the Cuyahoga River near its outlet on Lake Erie in Cleveland, and a few years later, with the Ohio River near Portsmouth. The Erie Canal provided the first waterway connecting the Great Lakes with the Atlantic Ocean. 4 Routes to the West Used by American Settlers, National Parks in Ohio: Wright Brothers, Mounds, Buffalo Soldiers, Election of 1812: DeWitt Clinton Nearly Unseated James Madison, Albert Gallatin's Report on Roads, Canals, Harbors, and Rivers, Founding and History of the New York Colony, The Wall Street War to Control the Erie Railroad, Biography of Robert Fulton, Inventor of the Steamboat, The Most Important Inventions of the Industrial Revolution, 363 miles in length, from Albany on the Hudson River to Buffalo on Lake Erie. Eventually, railroads and highways superseded the canal. In this lesson, we're going to look at the major changes brought about by the construction of the Erie Canal. DeWitt Clinton had just been elected governor of New York, and his determination to build the canal became legendary. Ring in the new year with a Britannica Membership, From commercial artery to national symbol, https://www.britannica.com/topic/Erie-Canal, Ohio History Central - Miami and Erie Canal, Erie Canal - Children's Encyclopedia (Ages 8-11), Erie Canal - Student Encyclopedia (Ages 11 and up). The canal was built in sections, so portions of it were opened for traffic before the entire length was declared finished on October 26, 1825. The Erie Canal opened today (5/15/2018), marking the 194th canal season since its auspicious opening in 1825 in New York. "Building the Erie Canal." Although the company achieved some success in making improvements to the river, it never had the financial resources to tackle the larger navigation obstacles in the river. The canal did not incorporate any natural lakes or rivers into its design, so it is entirely contained. Postcards of the Erie Canal in Schenectady and Vicinity ; The Mohawk River Aqueducts ; The Rexford Aqueduct ; The Crescent Aqueduct ; Images of the Erie Canal between Schenectady and Albany . The canal was 363 miles (584 kilometers) long, … Work was undertaken by multiple contractors who agreed to dig small sections of the canal. According to the State of New York, 80 percent of the population of upstate New York still lives within 25 miles of the route of the Erie Canal. McNamara, Robert. The plans for building the canal were delayed by the War of 1812. Tell students that in addition to using existing rivers, people in the 1800s could also create canals, or manmade rivers. Meanwhile, a new canal project had been gaining momentum. History of the Erie Canal This history of the Erie Canal, prepared by the University of Rochester, offers a map of the canal system in 1868, a chart showing the "evolution" of boats, and a timeline. Travel also proceeded westward for goods and products as well as passengers. He urged the building of a canal. Canal engineer Nathan B. Roberts designed a series of 10 locks, five levels with 2 locks side-by-side, to carry boats over this barrier. Clinton's boat then proceeded down the Hudson to New York City. One of the problems with the old wooden canal boats was their limited life span. There were many people who thought the canal was a foolish idea, and it was derided as "Clinton's Big Ditch" or "Clinton's Folly.". Right: Men on canal boat on Erie Canal -- photograph : b&w ; 7 x 9 in. The Ohio and Erie Canal was a canal constructed during the 1820s and early 1830s in Ohio. This is “a falsehood made up to explain a falsehood,” says Dan Ward, former curator at The Erie Canal Museum in Syracuse NY. Test your knowledge. Our editors will review what you’ve submitted and determine whether to revise the article. (Rochester Public Library Local History Division picture file) -- Note that the boat is named "Palmyra". About this quiz: All the questions on this quiz are based on information that can be found on the page at Erie Canal. Be on the lookout for your Britannica newsletter to get trusted stories delivered right to your inbox. It was the superhighway of its day and made vast amounts of commerce possible. 1807 December 10. The Erie Canal Today By the late-1800s canals were overtaken by railroads as the most important form of transportation. Images of the Erie Canal in the Niskayuna/Vischer Ferry area In 1830, the Ohio legislature earmarked funds for the Miami and Erie Canal's extension to Defiance and Lake Erie. Goods from the west could be taken across the Great Lakes to Buffalo, then on the canal to Albany and New York City, and conceivably even to Europe. Construction began in 1817 and was completed in 1825. The Erie Canal also did not cost the taxpayers of New York a penny since it was financed by bonds, all of which totaled to $8.4 million. It was a dream, and many people scoffed, but when one man, DeWitt Clinton, became involved, the crazy dream started to become reality. Which two bodies of water does the Suez Canal connect? Updates? On October 25, 1825, the entire length of the Erie Canal was complete. The Erie Canal was a huge and immediate success as a transportation artery. Each year the Erie Canal Museum transforms into a festive 1800s canal town street scene with gingerbread creations on display in storefront windows. The circle next to the answer will turn yellow. Each contractor was then responsible for supplying equipment and for hiring, supervising, and paying his own workers. Erie Canal, historic waterway of the United States, connecting the Great Lakes with New York City via the Hudson River at Albany. The town that grew at this site was appropriately named Lockport. Between 1835 and the turn of the century, this network of Canals was enlarged twice to … The Erie Canal was America's most successful canal. Diggin’ the Erie Canal. For webquest or practice, print a copy of this quiz at the Erie Canal webquest print page. In particular, DeWitt Clinton had promoted the idea of a western canal as early as 1811 while serving in the New York state senate. Independent historian. Building the Erie Canal. Today the canal is generally used as a recreational waterway, and the State of New York is actively engaged in promoting the Erie Canal as a tourist destination. The Erie Canal for kids: Background History The Residents of New York first started to discuss the possibility of building a canal that linked the Atlantic coast and New York to the Great Lakes in the late 1700's. However, the Erie Canal is still used today by recreational watercraft. Please refer to the appropriate style manual or other sources if you have any questions. The construction of the canal went from 1817 to 1825 and the purpose of it was to connect Lake Erie to the Hudson River.Even though the canal was open in 1825, additions and extensions were added to it for many years after. Taking advantage of the Mohawk River gap in the Appalachian Mountains, the Erie Canal, 363 miles (584 km) long, was the first canal in the United States to connect western waterways with the Atlantic Ocean. Its success propelled New York City into a major commercial centre and encouraged canal construction throughout the United States. The public debt for canals in 1825 amounted to seven and a half million dollars—all of which, it must be recorded to the honor of the State and the country, had been borrowed of American capitalists—and the annual interest thereon, to three hundred seventy-six thousand dollars. Which strait separates the continents of Asia and North America at their closest point? It was significant because it connected Lake Erie and the Great Lakes system to the Hudson River, and thereby gave the western states direct access to the Atlantic Ocean without shipping goods downstream on the Mississippi River to New Orleans. The Western Inland Lock Navigation Company, which found itself short of funds and snarled in state partisan politics, never completed its plans. Old Lithographs, Paintings, Woodcuts, Etc. Sections of the can… Dewitt Clinton saw the need for a faster, cheaper way to carry goods and people. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/building-the-erie-canal-1773705. The Erie Canal Story In the early 1800’s, Upstate New York was a wilderness. Back then, the latest development in transportation was the Erie Canal. New York Governor DeWitt Clinton pouring water from Lake Erie into the Atlantic Ocean to mark the completion of the Erie Canal. Clinton, who had been involved in national politics, he had nearly beaten James Madison in the 1812 presidential election, was an energetic mayor of New York City. A canal linking the Ohio River with Cleveland on Lake Erie was completed in 1833, and a waterway between the Chicago and Illinois rivers was built between 1836 and 1848. It was completed in 1825 and was the second longest canal in the world (after the Grand Canalin China), and it greatly enhanced the development and economy of the citie… The … Beginning in the 1780s, various plans were proposed to improve navigation on the Mohawk River. Project the map The Erie Canal of New York and explain that engineers built the Erie Canal to create a water route for boats between Lake Erie and the Mohawk River. The Erie Canal checked that trend as the new s… Take this quiz. Corrections? As more Irish laborers arrived the pace of construction picked up and overcame significant barriers. Taking advantage of the Mohawk River gap in the Appalachian Mountains, the Erie Canal, 363 miles (584 km) long, was the first canal in the United States to connect western waterways with the Atlantic Ocean. The Erie Canal in New York is part of the east–west, cross-state route of the New York State Canal System (formerly known as the New York State Barge Canal). This canal—a waterway made for travel—changed the future of the United States of America. In 1792 the Western Inland Lock Navigation Company was incorporated by the state of New York and given the rights to improve navigation on rivers and lakes west of Albany. Primary Source References. The canal's success was responsible for New York's new nickname: "The Empire State.". Many Americans who wanted to settle on the frontier used the canal as a highway westward. The event was lauded as "The Marriage of the Waters.". He was Amazon.com's first-ever history editor and has bylines in New York, the Chicago Tribune, and other national outlets. The original 13 states were arranged along the Atlantic coast, and there was a fear that other nations, such as Britain or France, would be able to claim much of the interior of North America. The canal was built, yet it was limited in its function and never lived up to Washington's dream. The historic project that was the famous Erie Canal--all of four feet deep--was begun in 1817. This grand idea might never have come to fruition but for the efforts of a remarkable character, DeWitt Clinton. A dip in a city street is one of the last reminders of a canal that cut a path through Erie's downtown for several decades in the mid-1800s. The idea for a canal connecting the Hudson River and the Great Lakes was first proposed in the early 1800s by a miller living in a village in upstate New York. The canal consisted of 85 locks to manage a 500 foot (150 meter) rise in elevation from the Hudson River to Buffalo. The Erie Canal soon began to change everything in America. … President Thomas Jefferson declared the idea "little short of madness", ... It’s named after the man who was extremely important to the building of Buffalo in the early 1800s, so I’m including it. The locks were designed so that each needed only one person for its operation. The laborers were mostly newly arrived immigrants from Ireland, and most of the work would be done with picks and shovels. During the late 1700s and the early 1800s, many Americans called for a canal that would traverse the Appalachian Mountains. Immigrants leaped from halted canal boats and passed through locks on foot, despite the efforts by contingents of armed militia to stop them. The Erie Canal was first opened in 1825. The Miami and Erie Canal would take an additional twelve years to finish, because the state legislature only originally authorized its completion from Cincinnati to just north of Dayton. Nonetheless, the Mohawk River still provided a valuable path from the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes, and plans for a new canal were debated. In addition, construction of the canal served as a training ground for many of the engineers who built other American canals and railroads in the ensuing decades. It was built to create a navigable water route from New York City and the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes. Animals typically worked in six hour shifts, which could mean anywhere from 3-20+ miles depending on several factors including the number of locks they encountered and the volume of traffic. New York was never to be the same, and many of the famous cities of upstate New York exist for the simple reason they were begun along the route of the Canal. (Jefferson to Joel Barlow). Southerners had been moving up the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers into southern Ohio and southern Indiana, which did become sympathetic to slavery, according to Jack Kelly, author of the new book Heavens Ditch: God, Gold and Murder on the Erie Canal. Steam machinery was not yet available, so workers used techniques that had been used for hundreds of years. McNamara, Robert. The Erie Canal's success was part of a Canal-building boom in New York in the 1820s. Under the leadership of Philip Schuyler, the company focused most of its activity on the Mohawk River, clearing the riverbed and digging several short canals to bypass river rapids. The Erie Canal Is Completed. The statistics of the Erie Canal were impressive: Boats on the canal were pulled by horses on a towpath, though steam-powered boats eventually became standard. The canal cost about $7 million, but collecting tolls meant it paid for itself within a decade. With a typical canal prism shape—12 metres (40 feet) wide on the top, 8.5 metres (28 feet) wide at the bottom, and 1.2 metres (4 feet) deep—the engineers patterned the Erie Canal after the Middlesex Canal in Massachusetts. From Thomas Jefferson's papers, Monticello researchers have compiled the following primary source references to the Erie Canal. A massive fleet of boats assembled in New York harbor, and as the city celebrated, Clinton took a cask of water from Lake Erie and poured it into the Atlantic Ocean. Originally. The Erie Canal was the marvel of the age, and it was celebrated in songs, illustrations, paintings, and popular folklore. . "[P]eople generally have more feeling for canals & roads than education. The Erie Canal Western Terminus – Commercial Slip, Harbor Development and Canal District. And it was soon a huge economic success. The Erie Canal at Schenectady . The canal was finished on October 26, 1825, two years ahead of schedule. With nature presenting more daunting obstacles on both the western and eastern sections, construction began in the middle segment on July 4, 1817, with Clinton officiating the groundbreaking at Rome, New York. The staircaselike locks were followed by a 5-km- (3-mile-) long, 9-metre- (30-foot-) deep cut blasted into the rocky plateau. In the 1780s, Washington organized a company, the Patowmack Canal Company, that sought to build a canal following the Potomac River. (Federal funds were sought, but were not legislated, so this canal and all subsequent canals in New York State were built and maintained exclusively with state funds.) Please select which sections you would like to print: While every effort has been made to follow citation style rules, there may be some discrepancies. The Erie Canal’s success inaugurated a period of intensive canal construction. It has been enlarged several times to accommodate larger boats and became part of the New York State Canal System in 1918. Construction began in 1817 and was completed in 1825. -- 1870-1900? Omissions? And many towns and cities sprang up along the canal, including Syracuse, Rochester, and Buffalo. TIMED PLEASE HURRY. The time to ship goods from Buffalo to New York was shortened from twenty days to six; and the cost per ton reduced from $1… The canal also required the construction of 18 aqueducts to carry the canal over bodies of water. The canal was enlarged in the mid-1800s, and it continued to be used for freight transportation for decades. The idea of building a canal from the east coast to the interior of North America was proposed by George Washington, who actually attempted such a thing in the 1790s. 1807 December 10. For example, during summer construction in a marsh, 1,000 workers died of swamp fever, so survivors were moved to another part of the canal until winter when it was safer to work in the frozen marsh. George Washington proposed a canal that would provide reliable transportation into the continent, thereby helping to unite frontier America with the settled states. McNamara, Robert. The Erie Canal is a canal in New York, United States that is part of the east–west, cross-state route of the New York State Canal System (formerly known as the New York State Barge Canal). It originally ran 363 miles (584 km) from the Hudson River in Albany to Lake Erie in Buffalo. All of these were taken in Waterford at Lock 2, the entrance to the Erie Canal. John Fitch (1743-1798) was granted a patent for a steamboat on August 26, 1791, the invention of steam power made it far easier to travel along the rivers. Most of the engineers involved in the elaborate project had no experience at all in building canals. Quarantine regulations which sought to contain towns and cities in upper New York, Vermont and along the Erie Canal met with little success. But things were very different in the early 1800s. In 1817, following election as governor of New York, Clinton persuaded the state legislature to authorize loans for $7 million to build a canal from Buffalo, on the eastern shore of Lake Erie, to the upper Hudson, passing through the Mohawk Valley region. Fifteen miles was the common distance a mule or horse would work before resting. Erie Canal, historic waterway of the United States, connecting the Great Lakes with New York City via the Hudson River at Albany. Lake Erie is 571 feet higher than the level of the Hudson River; locks were built to overcome that difference. Using horses and manpower, the canal was dug across the state. ThoughtCo. In 1820 the state of New York purchased the company’s works, closing the books on the 18th-century canal scheme. In 1817 the Erie Canal was established under the management of a New York State Commission. The canal was enlarged in the mid-1800s, and it continued to be used for freight transportation for decades. Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation. And while Washington's canal was a failure, citizens of New York thought they might be able to construct a canal that would reach hundreds of miles westward. Before the opening of the Erie Canal, New Orleans had been the only port city with an all-water route to the interior of the United States, and the few settlers in the Midwest had arrived mostly from the South. The construction of the Erie Canal began in 1817 and in 1819 the first 15-mile (24 km) section, Rome to Utica opened. After researching the Erie Canal, you will take on the role of a New York citizen before, during, or after the construction of the Erie Canal. By signing up for this email, you are agreeing to news, offers, and information from Encyclopaedia Britannica. At the conclusion of the trip in New York City, Clinton emptied a keg of water from Lake Erie into the Atlantic Ocean, calling it the “marriage of the waters.” Altogether, the locks, the aqueducts, and the canal itself were considered an American engineering marvel, and it was a great source of pride as an example of how citizens in a republic could improve upon nature and promote progress. The website might not look like much, but click on "Bibliograhy" to find histories of U.S. canals written in the 19th and early 20th centuries. (2020, August 27). Discuss the Erie Canal and how it solved problems caused by the landscape. View of Buffalo, on the shore of Lake Erie, before completion of the Erie Canal in 1825. In the late 1700s, the new American nation was faced with a problem. Let us know if you have suggestions to improve this article (requires login). On the western side, the challenge was the Niagara Escarpment, a 23-metre (75-foot) rock ridge. There was a big line up of vessels in Waterford, waiting to lock through and head west. ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, thoughtco.com/building-the-erie-canal-1773705. Get a Britannica Premium subscription and gain access to exclusive content. Swamps and dense forests covered the land. Clinton promoted the idea of a great canal in New York State and became the driving force in having it constructed. https://www.thoughtco.com/building-the-erie-canal-1773705 (accessed January 24, 2021). Offers, and other dignitaries boarded the Seneca Chief in Buffalo and traveled the length of engineers. 'S extension to Defiance and Lake Erie, before completion of the Erie --! Would provide reliable transportation into the continent, thereby helping to unite America! New Yorkers decided they would proceed on their own of a Canal-building boom in erie canal 1800s and... The common distance a mule or horse would work before resting this idea! 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