Saturday, January 19

We Were There at the Opening of the Erie Canal

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In the late 1700s and early 1800s, the industrial revolution led to a need for speedier ways to get goods to market.  One proposed solution was the canal.  The Erie Canal, in particular, linked the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean.  It was proposed in 1908, and construction was completed in 1825.  At the time, it was considered the Eighth Wonder of the World!

New York Governor DeWitt Clinton proposed the idea of the canal, which many people considered unwise – it was even called “Clinton’s Folly.”  At a distance of 363 miles, and with 34 locks (to compensate for elevation changes), the canal took a long time, and several millions of dollars, to build.  Nearly twenty years later, Clinton was one of the first to board a packet boat and journey down the canal! 

The Erie Canal provided several jobs and economic growth to the areas around its ports all the way until the 1980s, at which point it became more of a tourist attraction.  The canal was an engineering feat, and required the knowledge of construction workers, stonemasons, engineers, and skilled manual laborers.  Many problems arose during the construction, but they were quickly solved by the crew.

Packet boats were used to transport goods at a quicker and cheaper rate than previously available.  Mules (such as ‘Sal,’ from the song) helped to tote the loads.  Canal families became a ‘thing,’ as families lived on the boats and transported goods for a living.  Eventually, improvements were needed and new sections of the canal were created.  You can still see parts of the original canal today!
Profile of the Erie Canal

Access the complete unit in the 'We Were There' Novel Studies Bundle!

Includes THIRTY-SIX unit studies covering World & American History. Each unit addresses a new topic, spanning the the ancient world through post-WW2.  Each unit has introductory text, which will give the student basic background information about the topic at hand.

  • There are photographs and illustrations, and we have also included primary documents when available.
  • After this text, there are featured videos, which augment the background information and help make the topic more accessible for more visual students.
  • You will also find a short list of reading books, including a featured novel that the unit builds upon.
  • There are vocabulary words, places, and people to identify.
  • Reading comprehension, critical thinking questions, and writing assignments are included.
  • We add fun with hands-on activities and extra videos to watch that will bring the era to life.

These studies are directed toward upper grades students, but some have resources for younger students so that the whole family can work together. Our family has used unit studies as curriculum for many years, and we hope that your family will enjoy these, too!

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  1. We took a boat trip down a few locks on the Erie canal on our family trip to Niagara Falls; we tried to read a few books about it beforehand too.

    1. How were the locks? I've never been through there.


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