Western Expansion, Manifest Destiny, and the Mexican-American War

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What was the significance of the Erie Canal, and when did it open?

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Canals are man-made waterways. The Erie Canal was built to connect the waters of Lake Erie in the west and the Hudson River in the east. Proposals for its construction were aimed at improving access to the West by creating a cheaper, faster, and safer route for the transport of people and cargo. Initial proposals sought to connect the Hudson to Lake Ontario, but this was later revised to reach Lake Erie, and its construction began in 1817.

After completion of the canal, the Erie Canal provided cheaper transport, especially for bulk goods. The canal provided the first transportation system that did not require the moving of cargo or watercraft over land by connecting the western interior to the east coast.

The Erie Canal was completed in 1825 and opened the same year. However, its use started much earlier with the completion of the different sections of the waterway.

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The Erie Canal was first opened in 1825. It was significant because it connected Lake Erie and the Great Lakes system to the Hudson River, and thereby gave the western states direct access to the Atlantic Ocean without shipping goods downstream on the Mississippi River to New Orleans. All of upstate New York and the upper Ohio River valley were now connected to New York.  The time to ship goods from Buffalo to New York was shortened from twenty days to six; and the cost per ton reduced from $100.00 to five dollars. The economic boon was obviously tremendous. By means of the canal, the importance of New Orleans as the economic capital of the nation was largely supplanted. With the development of the steam boat, the canal became even more important, as goods were then shipped upstream from the Midwest, then by the canal to the port cities of the Northeast.

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