Today America spans the continent from sea to sea. In our earliest days though, we were pinned tightly to the Atlantic by the Appalachian mountain chain. We may have had title to the western lands, but without roads or canals, getting heavy tools or produce across those mountains just wasn't possible. The Erie Canal changed all of that, and its impact on America's future makes it one of the most important infrastructure projects in our country's history.
Watch the following video, and then make your own list of ways in which history would likely be very different today if Americans hadn't opened the door to the inner continent -- and then eventually extended that grasp with railroads all the way to the western sea.
The videos you find on this website aren't intended to tell the complete story of the Erie Canal's construction. They are however, fun tools in the hands of any teacher seeking a highly interactive class about one of the most important -- and unlikely -- infrastructure projects in American History.
You can buy a copy of our "The Grand Erie Canal - The Classroom Collection" DVD for your own personal use from Amazon.
Our VIDEO TOPIC INDEX page includes a link to each of our over thirty video features. You'll find that each short story stands alone,
During the 1980's I made my living with a backhoe installing residential septic systems in Western New York State. My home was near the Erie Canal, and about half-way between Lockport and Rochester. In the winter of 1985 I read how Irish workers overcame the three toughest challenges of the original Erie's construction: The aqueduct at Rochester, the "Deep Cut" at Lockport, and the towpath across the Montezuma Swamp.
My work then included having to dig level trenches that were fifty feet long. That can be a challenge in hilly ground, but imagine my reaction when I learned that they dug a trench through virgin forests from Rochester to Lockport that was level for 62 miles! Thomas Jefferson called the plan to build the canal, "little short of madness", and even today I agree with him! It was madness!. I say that not as a historian, nor as an engineer... but as a digger who's fought with shallow bedrock, soft mud, frozen ground and giant tree roots - all hard enough with modern hydraulic equipment today - let alone the animal-power and primitive tools available in 1817!
Enjoy our short stories, and try to imagine how different our lives would be today if this project had never been completed. Stephen Drew -- Rochester, NY