The Erie Canal and Its Construction
The Erie Canal could not have been built without the toil and sacrifice of many individuals. Hawley, who composed a total of fourteen essays while serving a sentence in a debtor's prison, is credited with coming up with the concept for the Erie Canal. (The Erie Canal Chronology 1). Politicians in New York endorsed the canal proposal. DeWitt Clinton, the governor of New York, endorsed the plan to connect the Hudson River to the great lakes. Although the proposal was opposed by many, the governor overcame them by persuading the legislature to approve a $7 million budget. (The New York State 1). The construction of Erie Canal began in 1817 with the approval of $ 7 million budget by the Legislature. The work was very slow because of the inexperienced construction team. Many contractors participated in the construction by digging a small section. Each contractor was supposed to provide their own materials and labor force. The construction work received a boost from Canvass White who learned how to create cement that would harden underwater using local cement. These developments led to reduction in costs because importation of cement was no longer needed. The work was mostly completed by animal and manpower. The work was completed Eight years later (in 1825).The canal was 363 miles, 40 feet wide and 4 feet deep. The canal was officially put in use on October 26, 1825 (Erie Canal Timeline 1, 2).
The Erie Canal is a national treasure in New York and USA and was built in the years between 1817 and 1825 and had coverage of up to 363 miles between Albany and Buffalo. By the year 1819, the middle section of the Erie Canal had been completed and had coverage of up to 98 miles, by 1920, transportation on the middle section had begun when the construction of the western section was complete and the eastern section had just begun. In 1823, boats in Erie Canal and the other canal linked to Erie Canal; Champlain canal entered the Hudson river. In 1825, the project was completed and was officially opened in 1826. In 1847, the enlargement of the canal began and was completed in 1862. Historically; it was the longest man made waterway and was also gauged to be one of the greatest public works in North America. The canal is one of the significant features that put New York on the Empire state map. It contributed to economic strength, industrialization and it became the leader in population and contributed greatly in giving it a specific national identity. The construction of Erie Canal called for determination, ingenuity, vision and hard work which were reinforced by the management in charge of the construction (Riley et al. 53).
The Workmanship and Engineering
The workmanship involved in this project was the engineers and the politicians who selected the route and geographical location of the canal. The interior route from Hudson River to Lake Erie was preferred owing to its proximity to the Ontario Lake that is located in Oswego. The interior route was also convenient since timber and other supplies that would be used for the construction process would be easily supplied owing to its location in the New York state market.
Some of the amazing engineering facts that the Erie canal creation presented include: its depth and breadth, the maneuvering aspect despite the land's geographical hindrances and the experience that ensured the construction of the canal. The structure of the canal was originally 4 feet deep and 40 feet wide. It cut through forests, swamps, rocky hills and crossed rivers and was able to also overcome hills by use of 83 lift locks. The other engineering aspect that was surprising was the fact that the engineers had no idea or experience in canals as this was the first project ever that was initiated concerning canals and therefore, they gathered practical knowledge as they carried on with the construction process.
The Laborers and Economic Impact
The laborers in the project were majorly New York natives and there were also Irish immigrants that were included in the labor and their major background duty was to excavate the ground, and felling trees using available tools and animal. This was manual labor and later on they devised ways and tools that could uproot roots and tree stumps. They also developed a means of harden the underwater by use of hydraulic cement and used hand drills and black powder to blast rocks (Reisem et al. 187). The level of ingenuity applied and the labor used ensured the prevalence of the engineering and construction of the canal. According to the ancient history, the engineering construction of the canal gave rise to the maturity of the prophecy by DeWitt Clinton which predicted that New York would be America's preeminent state and would be a center for development.
The Economic Impact
The Erie Canal acted as a tool for social, economic and political reformation. It also contributed to charismatic leadership, increased boldness and risk taking which was implemented through the construction of the artificial canal, territory expansion since the wide coverage off the canal provided room for wide range of covering, technological advancement, embrace the technology and hard work were also initiated by the construction of the Erie canal owing to the features that needed to be implemented in ensuring the safety of use of the system, economic and industrial power and social interchange (Waldstreicher 56).
The construction of the Erie Canal created a channel for flow of people and as a result led to the flow of ideas. Owing to the position of New York with regard to the Erie Canal, it became America's prominent state and it became populated across all borders and as a result generated wealth not only for itself but for the entire American nation. In a short span, New York's ports became the busiest; it became the most populated and became one of the leading cities in commerce and finance. It also led to the increase in the number of immigrants who moved in with the hope of finding new life in the city and after a while, it resulted into generation of other smaller cities within the area.
The effectiveness of the Erie Canal greatly influenced the economy of the America in the following ways;
The Erie Canal increased the speed and efficiency of the journey across New York. This made it possible to transport goods between Albany and Buffalo stagecoach. It did not only reduce the time of movement of goods from two weeks to only five days, but also the quantity which was transported was higher at a lower cost. The cost of transporting the goods reduced from $100 per ton by road to $10 per ton by canal. All these development contributed to the economic growth of America by increasing trade for New York City businesses.
The canal led to improvement in trade causing the commerce to expand along the canal and throughout New York State. This was made possible through ease of movement of people, raw materials, manufactured goods between the Eastern seaboard with the Great Lakes and the West. Improvement in trade also led to growth of New York City and other cities along Hudson on the way to New York. The canal also helped on making new resources and new markets available for the regions along Hudson River Valley, thus boosting trade and in turn economic growth.
The Erie Canal led to opening up of new markets for New York City businesses. This was made possible by influx of people to New York City through the use of Erie Canal in a faster way. The market is for businesses are essential for economic growth. The Canal made it easy for European business to reach Midwest. These enabled New York City to become the main international gateway to the resources of the Midwest and also a financial capital of America boosting economic growth. With the Canal, people living in the East and the West were able to bond, strengthening the union. The West was able to supply agricultural products to the East. Mid-West became the nation's food growing center. These boosted the economic growth because of the profit that was derived from exporting the agricultural produce to the East and Europe.
The Nascent tourism industry received a boost through Erie Canal. With the construction of the canal, many tourists including Europeans such as Charles Dickens used the Canal on adventure from New York City to Niagara Falls. Other tourists came to New York for Vacation. The Canal remains a tourist attraction to date. Tourism is a major driving force in the economy because of foreign exchange, payment for tourist sites and accommodation. It also helped in job creation.
The Erie Canal helped to transform New York City into America's commercial Capital. The canal gave New York City access to the huge area of the Midwest, establishing New York City as a premier Port in America. New York became a gateway to the Midwest becoming America's commercial capital and primary port of entry for European Immigrants. This led to the increase in population from 1820 to 1850. With the help of the Erie Canal, the consumer economy was launched. The Erie Canal led to transformation of the America economy as a whole. With cheap transportation costs, manufactured goods were made available to the consumers. Farmers in Western New York were able to grow wheat and sell it due to availability of the market. With the income received, they were able to buy other items like furniture and clothing. All these developments were made possible through the Erie Canal.
The Erie Canal sparked the boom in construction of other canals. With the commercial success of the Erie Canal, coupled with the knowledge gained in the engineering, many other canals were constructed across the United States. With high cost of building and maintenance, they were not sustainable. Most of them were closed. With the boom, many jobs were created as well as making it easy to move goods and services from one place to another. The Erie Canal led to population increase in the New York City. With cheap transportation costs and access to New York City made possible by the canal, many immigrants found their way to New York City. With population increase, market was available to buy goods and services. Labor also became available for farmers and industries.
Erie Canal contributed to the growth of the American economy through employment creation through the operation of the canal itself. The industry employed thousands of men and boys across New York City. Anytime a boat traveled through the canal, it required a captain and crew plus a team of Mules to pull the boat. Also, the labor was required to operate each of the thirty-six original locks and tolls. The city of Rochester's premiere boat building industry came as a result of the Erie Canal. With the coming of Erie canal through the Rochester, the place became the ideal location for artisans and craftsmen and later led to the development of major boat building industry. The finest boats were made for passenger & cargo travel along the canal.
Erie Canal did not only transport grain but also assisted in opening an eastern market for meat products from Midwest. Erie Canal could transport pork and beef from Chicago through Buffalo, Rochester, and New York City. These led to growth in livestock farming along the canal's route. These developments led to the establishment of the national meat trade.
When comparing the economic state of America before and after the construction of the canal, there was a diverse and an overwhelming change in the economic state of the country due to the development projects that were initiated. This project contributed to connection between the eastern seaboard and the expansion of the territories to the west and helped establish the US's place for North American Economic Affairs. The flow of ideas, businesses and the country interconnection contributed to the generation of foreign income also due to its tourist attraction nature in the canal and due to the economic development projects, the economic impact of the Erie Canal proved to be overwhelmingly successful.
Eries Canal Timeline, n.d, The Web < https://tahcriticalthemes.wikispaces.com/file/view/Erie_Canal_WKSHP_Timeline.pdf>
The Erie Canal Chronology, n.d The Web <
The New York State, "Canal History," n.d The Web < http://www.canals.ny.gov/history/history.html>
Reisem, Richard O, and Andy Olenick. Erie Canal Legacy: Architectural Treasures of the Empire State. Rochester, N.Y: Landmark Society of Western New York, 2000. Print
Riley, Kathleen L. Lockport: Historic Jewel of the Erie Canal. Charleston, S.C: Arcadia, 2005. Print. 53
Santella, Andrew. The Erie Canal. Minneapolis, Minn: Compass Point Books, 2005. Print.
Waldstreicher, David. A Companion to John Adams and John Quincy Adams. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013. Internet resource.