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Westward expansion & Economic success of the United States. Rosemary M. Stephens. Steamboats. In 1807, Robert Fulton and Robert Livingston introduced the first steamboat, known as the Clermont, on the Hudson River

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  • In 1807, Robert Fulton and Robert Livingston introduced the first steamboat, known as the Clermont, on the Hudson River
  • Between 1817 and 1820 the number of steamboats in America jumped from 17 to 69, and by 1855, the number had reached 727.
  • Prior to canals, flatboats, sometimes little more than rafts, carried goods down the Mississippi River.
  • There, the boats were broken up and sold as firewood because they could not make the trip back upstream. The return voyage was then made on foot or horseback.
  • Keelboats, like flatboats except in that they had a rudder, could make the return journey upstream, but progress was extremely slow.
  • Steamboats moved about four times as fast as keelboats upstream.
  • As steamboats gained popularity, enthusiasm grew for the building of canals.
  • In 1816, the US had only 100 miles of canals. However, the invention of the steamboat and the resources of the west convinced many that canals were a necessary connection between the Mississippi-Ohio waterways with the Great Lakes, and thereby the East.


the erie canal
  • The first major canal project, the Erie Canal, spanned 363 miles and connected Buffalo and Albany, New York.
  • Through the Erie Canal, New York City was linked, by the Hudson River in the East, and the Great Lakes in the West, all the way to Ohio.
effects of the canal
Effects of the canal
  • The growing canal system linked the major trading and manufacturing centers of the nation.
  • Shipping costs dropped dramatically.
  • Average freight costs from Buffalo to New York City fell from 19 cents per ton per mile in 1817 to 2 to 3 cents during the 1830s.
  • Folklore, songs and speech lingo emerged from those individuals whom worked

along the Canal.

  • As the population grew and the Canal prospered, it became not only a transportation waterway, but also a vacation area for the well-to-do. 

Canal boats became floating houses, traveling from town to town.

    • Father: Captain
    • Mother: Cooked
    • Crew/Children: Serve as "hoggees" and would walk alongside the mules to lead them along at a steady pace.
  • For those who traveled along the Canal in packet boats or passenger vessels, the Canal was an exciting place.
    • Gambling and entertainment
    • Families would meet each year at the same locations to share stories and adventures.

Settlers poured west. 

  • The explosion of trade
    • freight rates from Buffalo to New York of $10 per ton by Canal, compared with $100 per ton by road. 
    • In 1829, there were 3,640 bushels of wheat transported down the Canal from Buffalo. 
    • By 1837 this figure had increased to 500,000 bushels; four years later it reached one million. In nine years, Canal tolls more than recouped the entire cost of construction.
  • Within 15 years of the Canal's opening, New York was the busiest port in America, moving tonnages greater than Boston, Baltimore and New Orleans combined.
creation of major cities
Creation of major cities
  • The impact on the rest of the State can be seen by looking at a modern map.
    • (pull up google maps)
  • With the exception of Binghamton and Elmira, every major city in New York falls along the trade route established by the Erie Canal, from New York City to Albany, through Schenectady, Utica and Syracuse, to Rochester and Buffalo. 
  • Nearly 80% of upstate New York's population lives within 25 miles of the Erie Canal.
goodbye canals hello railroads and highways
Goodbye canals, hello railroads and highways
  • With growing competition from railroads and highways, and the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1959, commercial traffic on the Canal System declined dramatically in the latter part of the 20th century.
  • As the canal boom slowed in the late 1830s, the railroad boom kicked into gear.
  • By 1840, about 3,000 miles of track had been lain in America and investment in railroads had outstripped that in canals.
  • The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, chartered in 1828, successfully competed with the Erie Canal for business.
  • Massachusetts, unable to connect to the Erie Canal due to obstructing mountains, chartered the Boston and Worcester Railroad in 1831 and the Western Railroad from Worcester to Albany in 1833.
  • Railroads were faster, cheaper, and had greater range than canals, but still grew only gradually at first.
  • http://www.canals.ny.gov/history/history.html
  • www.monroefordham.org