An Economic Journey through the Erie Canal. “Yet it is not that wealth now enriches the scene Where treasures of Art and of Nature convene; It is not that this Union our coffers may fill: Oh! No! It is something more exquisite still. ‘Tis that Genius had triumphed and Science prevailed
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“Yet it is not that wealth now enriches the scene
Where treasures of Art and of Nature convene;
It is not that this Union our coffers may fill:
Oh! No! It is something more exquisite still.
‘Tis that Genius had triumphed and Science prevailed
Where prejudice flouted and envy assailed
It is that the Vassels of Europe may see
The Progress of Mind in a Land that is free.”
…from “The Meeting of the Waters of Hudson and Erie” by Samuel Woodworth, 1825 and sung at the Grand Canal Celebration
While experts disagree about the effect of building the Erie Canal on all Americans, they all agree that it both shaped and stimulated the U.S. economy.
In short, the experts agree, the Erie Canal was the transportation marvel and economic model of its day. It reduced the travel time from the Hudson River to the Great Lakes by one half and provided travelers a welcome alternative to the rutted, muddy road of the stage coach. Passengers traveled on packet boats pulled by a team of horses or mules at a leisurely pace equivalent to that of a fast walk.
Dewitt Clinton, member of Canal Commission and Canal promoter.
Indeed, while most studies of the Erie Canal focus on the story of economic progress and political intrigue, few focus on the laborers who built the Canal.
The first builders of the Erie Canal faced enormous engineering challenges at a time when there were almost no professional engineers in the United States. The principal engineers were not professionally trained engineers when they began the project. Nevertheless, they were able to construct a canal so successful that it outgrew itself almost immediately.