Canals, Rivers, and Railroads
The Erie Canal
Transportation—uniting the county, enabling commerce and tourism—has long been a work in progress in the United States. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, river transportation and the construction of regional canals emerged as a viable means of transportation. Most notable was the Erie Canal built between Lake Erie and the Hudson River. When completed in 1825, the 365-mile canal proved so successful that it spurred a boom in canal building. By 1835, there were over 45 canals consisting of 2,600 miles of canals built from Indiana to Maine and south to the Carolinas and Georgia.
In the mid-19th century, steamboat travel also flourished on the Ohio, Mississippi, and other large rivers. Locally, Missouri River steamboat commerce between St. Louis and St. Joseph flourished between 1845 and 1870 with over 50 vessels making regular runs up and down the river. In 1869, the chief mode of transportation shifted to railroads.
The Kansas City Bridge
In May 1869 the Transcontinental Railroad between Omaha, Nebraska, and Sacramento, California, the first large-scale government-funded infrastructure project, united the nation. The railroad reduced the six-month trip from the east coast to California to two weeks. By the end of the 19th century, it was personal transportation, bicycles and automobiles, which led the movement for a new and improved infrastructure.