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The Erie Canal is a 363-mile waterway the connects the an excellent Lakes with the Atlantic s via the Hudson river in upstate brand-new York. The channel, i m sorry traverses new York state from Albany come Buffalo on Lake Erie, was considered an design marvel when it very first opened in 1825. The Erie Canal provided a direct water route from new York City come the Midwest, triggering massive commercial and agricultural development—as well as immigration—to the sparsely lived in frontiers of western brand-new York, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan and also points farther west. The canal transformed new York City right into the young nation’s financial powerhouse, and also in 2000 the U.S. Congress designated the Erie Canal a nationwide Heritage Corridor.

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Early explorers in America had long searched for a water route from east Coast population centers come the resource-rich soil of the Midwest and great Lakes.


The Northwest Territory—which later would become the says of Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and also Wisconsin—had timber, minerals, furs and also fertile land because that farming, however the Appalachian hills stood in the way.

Throughout the 18th and also early 19th centuries, it took weeks to with these sources overland. Mass transportation of items was minimal by what teams of oxen can pull by wagon. The lack of an effective transportation network border populations and trade to seaside areas.


Jesse Hawley

Beginning in 1807, Jesse Hawley—a flour merchant from western new York that went damaged trying to obtain his product to sector in the Atlantic seaside cities—published a collection of essays native debtor’s prison. In them, Hawley supported for a canal device that would certainly span nearly 400 miles from Buffalo, brand-new York, on the eastern shore the Lake Erie, to Albany, brand-new York, ~ above the Hudson River.


Hawley’s eloquent essays captured the fist of new York politicians, including brand-new York City market DeWitt Clinton. Clinton believed that the canal was critical to the economic development of his city.

Clinton saw his plan come come fruition in 1817 after he came to be the governor of brand-new York. Workers very first broke soil on the Erie Canal ~ above July 4, 1817, close to Utica, new York.

An Unprecedented design Feat

The building and construction of the Erie Canal, v mountainous terrain and dense rock verified as challenging as the political environment.


Throughout construction, Dewitt Clinton’s political opponents ridiculed the job as “Clinton’s Folly” or “Clinton’s ditch.”

It took canal laborers—some irish immigrants, however most U.S.-born men—eight years to end up the project. They cleared the floor by hand and also animal power and also blasted with rock with gunpowder. (Dynamite wasn’t designed until the 1860s by swedish scientist Alfred Nobel.)

The original Erie Canal was just four feet deep and 40 feet wide, though it was taken into consideration a significant engineering feat at the time of its perfect in 1825. The traversed nearly 400 miles of fields, forests, and also rocky cliffs, and also contained 83 locks—structures supplied for raising and also lowering boats in between canal stretches with various water levels.


Project designers had little experience building canals. The military academy in ~ West suggest in new York readily available the just formal design program in phibìc America at the time the Erie Canal was built.

The project provided practical schooling because that a new generation that American engineers and also builders, and led come the founding of the nation’s first civil design school, Rensselaer Polytechnic academy (RPI) in Troy, brand-new York, in 1824.

Erie Canal designers devised brand-new equipment come uproot trees and also stumps and invented the first cement the could collection and harden underwater.


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Erie Canal’s economic Impacts

The Erie Canal opened up on October 26, 1825. A fleet that boats, led by branch Dewitt Clinton aboard the Seneca cook sailed native Buffalo to brand-new York City in document time—just ten days.

The canal transformed new York City right into the commercial capital it remains today. Before the canal’s construction, the harbor of Boston, Philadelphia and new Orleans outranked new York in size.

But the building and construction of the Erie Canal gave new York City (via the Hudson River) straight water accessibility to the great Lakes and regions that the Midwest. Together the gateway to these resource-rich lands, new York soon became the nation’s economic epicenter and the main port that entry come the United states for european immigrants.

New York City’s populace quadrupled in between 1820 and 1850. Jae won of the Erie Canal’s construction allowed the city to eclipse Philadelphia as the country’s most crucial banking center.

The Erie Canal also listed an economic boost to the whole United says by allowing the transfer of goods at one-tenth the previous cost in less than half the previous time. By 1853, the Erie Canal carried 62 percent of every U.S. Trade.

For the first time, manufactured products such together furniture and clothing might be transport in mass to the frontier.


Farmers in western new York and also the Midwest now had cash to purchase consumer goods, because they could an ext cheaply ship wheat, corn and also other crops to rewarding East coastline markets.

The Erie Canal additionally helped to stimulate America’s nascent travel industry. It attracted vacationers, consisting of Europeans such together Charles Dickens. Countless tourists floated under the canal ~ above excursions from brand-new York City come Niagara Falls.

Impact on native Americans

The building of the Erie Canal and subsequent population explosion follow me its route accelerated the dispossession—or removal—of aboriginal Americans in western brand-new York and the top Midwest.

The Erie Canal traversed the genealogical homelands of several groups, consisting of the Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga and Seneca.

From the early years that the canal era come the peak of brand-new York’s canal boom in the 1840s and 1850s, state and federal policies promoted the removed of indigenous populations from occurring portions of new York.

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Native americans were sent to reservations in isolated sections of brand-new York and other eastern States. Others were sent to unfamiliar outlying areas in the American Midwest.