Canals for a Nation: The Canal Era in the United States, by Ronald E. Shaw

By Ronald E. Shaw

All yet forgotten other than as part of nostalgic lore, American canals throughout the first 1/2 the 19th century supplied a transportation community that used to be important to the improvement of the hot state. They diminished transportation expenses, carried an unlimited grain alternate from western farms to japanese ports, introduced Pennsylvania coal to manhattan, and carried hundreds of thousands of passengers at what appeared easy velocity. alongside their classes sprang up new cities and towns and with them new fiscal development.
Canals for a state brings jointly in a single quantity a survey of the entire significant American canals. listed here are money owed of cutting edge engineering, of close to heroic figures who dedicated their lives to canals, and of canal initiatives that triumphed over the entire uncertainties of the political strategy.

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When the Potomac Company was organized in 1785 to improve the Potomac navigation, Washington became its president. He believed such improvements would prove profitable to his land speculations, would be critical to the interests of his state of Virginia, and would help to preserve the American Union. Washington worried that western settlers would become commercially dependent upon the British and the Spanish "at the flanks and rear" of the United States. 14 Washington estimated that the improvement of sixty miles of Potomac River navigation from Georgetown to Harpers Ferry could ul- Page 8 timately replace two hundred miles of land travel to the Ohio River.

61 Philadelphia merchants had long wanted a canal to cross the Delmarva Peninsula between Chesapeake Bay and Delaware Bay In Congress, James Bayard of Delaware and Joshua Gilpin of Pennsylvania introduced a plan in 1806 to aid the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal, but it failed. Then, in his sixth annual message in 1806, Jefferson suggested Page 23 that public revenues be used for "roads, rivers, canals, and such other objects of public improvement," and Henry Clay of Kentucky offered the prospect of combining aid to the Louisville and Portland Canal Company with the project for the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal.

Wantland, a doctoral student in history at Miami University. Again, I owe a special debt to my wife, Judith M. Shaw, for her continuing support and perceptive criticisms, which have made this work a shared endeavor. Page 1 1 Pioneer Canals and Republican Improvements Like so much in American history, the first canals were derivative from those of Europe. The Dutch, the French, and, especially in the latter half of the eighteenth century, the English carried the technology of canal building forward from its ancient origins.

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