Digging Clinton’s Ditch: The impact of the Erie Canal on America, 1807-1860

Volpe, Paul Martin , Department of English, University of Virginia
Howard, Alan, Department of English, University of Virginia
Brown, John, Department of English, University of Virginia

Relying solely on innovation, hard work and determination, New Yorkers dug a canal that would serve the national interest in both the short and long term, provide the impetus and capacity for territorial and commercial expansion and help unite east and west at a crucial point in the nation's history. Using primary documents and economic statistics and examining canal culture, this project illustrates that the Erie Canal was a physical representation of American ideals and a tangible symbol of the nineteenth century national philosophy. The intention of this site is to provide historical and cultural information on the Erie Canal and demonstrate its importance to the state and the nation. Overcoming sectional and political opposition and conquering the physical landscape of the state, New York politicians, engineers and farmers built the largest canal (363 miles) in the shortest amount of time (eight years), opened the Old Northwest, set the stage for further developments in transportation and substantially altered the face of American commerce, politics and geography in the nineteenth century and beyond.

An American Studies MA thesis, this site employs javascript and framesets and features digitized audio. The photographs, maps and other graphics were produced using Photoshop and image mapping was done with CoffeeCup software. The site was designed and presented in a manner to advance the argument that the Erie Canal played a vital role in the political, geographic and economic development of the nation.

MA (Master of Arts)

Originally published on the XRoads site for the UVA American Studies program. Years range from 1995-2005. Content is captured at the level of functionality available on the date of capture.

All rights reserved (no additional license for public reuse)
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