American History 1785 - 1849

United States History 1800's Canals in America


In the early 1800's canals were built in America to connect towns and settlements.

Settlers started moving farther away from the rivers because river towns were becoming too crowded. People had to use the dirt roads cut through the forest to move goods to markets. The settlers wanted good routes that would connect their settlements to the rivers. The answer to this was canals. Canals are man-made rivers used to move goods. They also made traveling quicker.

The best known of the canals was the Erie Canal. It ran 363 miles from Albany, New York on the Hudson River to Lake Erie. The average size was forty feet wide and four feet deep. The canal was dug by men with shovels and scoops. Horses were used to pull some of the bigger scoops. Construction took eight years from 1817 to 1825. The 363 mile long canal cost $7 million.

Erie Canal

Barges moved along the canals pulled by mules or horses which walked along the edge of the water. The barges carried goods such as furniture and clothing to the west. They brought back goods such as grain and lumber.

Before the Erie Canal  was built, it cost $100 to bring a ton of goods from Buffalo to New York City. After the canal was built the cost lowered to $8. The canal made New York City one of the most used ports in the nation.


Return to the History Pages

Return to Our Growing Nation Home

Go to Activities for Lesson 11

Go to the Online Quiz for Lesson 11