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Unformatted text preview: The Development of Transportation
Infrastructure in 19th Century America
Infrastructure 1 Public vs. Private: The Internal Improvements
Debate In 1800, the United States was geographically
large but with a small population.
large Other than population centers, much of the
infant United States was largely uninhabited.
infant The vast expanses of wilderness made
transportation difficult in a time before railroads.
In 1808, Secretary of State Albert Gallatin
issued Report on Roads, Canals, Harbours, and
Rivers, a paper which advocated the
construction of a national system of
transportation infrastructure, funded by the tariff,
to promote economic activity and provide for
The War of 1812 shelved Gallatin’s plan, but it
was reintroduced in 1817 by South Carolina
Senator John C. Calhoun.
Calhoun’s internal improvements bill passed
Congress by a bare majority, but was vetoed by
President James Madison who contended that it
was not the place of the federal government to
build a transportation network.
build Because of Madison’s veto, the responsibility
of building transportation infrastructure fell to
the individual states, which resulted in uneven
Madison 2 Robert Fulton and the Steamboat On 7 August 1807, Robert Fulton
launched the steamboat Claremont
on the Hudson River for a trip
between New York City and Albany.
between The Claremont completed the 150
mile trip in just over 32 hours, an
astonishing speed against the
current for the time.
current Although the Claremont was not the
first steamboat, it was the first
steamboat that was economically
By 1811, Fulton’s had taken the
steamboat to the Mississippi River
and, in 1819, the Savannah crossed
the Atlantic Ocean on a combination
of steam and sail.
The introduction of steam power
meant that transportation was no
longer reliant on animals, wind, and
currents. "What sir, would you make a ship
sail against the winds and current by
lighting a bonfire under her deck? I
pray you excuse me. I have no time
to listen to such nonsense."
Napoleon I to Robert Fulton
Napoleon The Claremont
3 The Erie Canal
Before the invention of the railroad, the
Before The Erie Canal circa 1829
In its first year of operation 185,000 tons of
merchandise was moved on the Erie Canal. This
included 562,000 bushels of wheat, 221,000 barrels of
flour, and 435,000 gallons of whiskey.
flour, only practical means of moving heavy
objects around the country was by
This proved an impediment to
commerce as the two major American
ports, Baltimore and New York, were
not served by rivers.
not This meant that goods had to be
offloaded from barges and carried
overland to the port for shipping.
In 1817, months after Madison vetoed
the internal improvements bill, New
York began construction of a canal to
link New York Harbor with the Hudson
River and the Great Lakes beyond.
When the canal was completed in
1825, the cost of transporting one ton
of wheat across New York fell from
$100 to $5. A journey that had taken
20 days could now be competed in 10.
Though improved, the Erie Canal
remains in operation
4 The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad In 1827, the Baltimore and Ohio
became the first railroad in the U.S.
chartered to carry passengers and
freight. The railroad had not yet been
invented when the Erie Canal was
built. Designed to link Baltimore Harbor
with the Ohio River, the B&O
eventually covered the Eastern
seaboard and reached as far west as
Chicago and continued operation
In 1830, there were 23 miles of
railroad in the United States. By 1840
it had increased to 2,808 miles of
track. By 1860, 30,626 miles of track
had been laid in the United States.
had The Tom Thumb, the first
locomotive on the B&O Railroad.
locomotive 5 Railroads and the Civil War A Mayan Calendar President Madison’s 1817
veto of the internal
improvements bill left the
to the various states. This
led to wide disparities in
The industrialized Northern
states generally had greater
need for transportation and
more resources to invest
than did the agricultural
Southern Map of American railroads in 1851. Note the disparity
between the North and the South.
between At the outbreak of the war,
the Northern states had
roughly 20,000 miles of rail
while Southern states had
only 9,000 miles.
6 Sherman’s March to the Sea In 1864, Union General William Tecumseh
Sherman launched an attack at the South’s
ability to wage war.
With an army of 100,000 men, Sherman
entered the South destroying the industrial
and transportation network.
The South did not have enough soldiers to
both hold the front and resist Sherman, so
Sherman was able to march through the
South largely unopposed.
South Sherman’s army would tear up railroads
and heat the rails over a bonfire until they
could be bent them around a tree trunk or
telegraph pole. This would weaken the
metal and make the rail unusable. The
resultant twisted metal was called a
Sherman burned Atlanta, the major Southern
rail hub and Charleston, a major Southern
With the loss of their transportation network,
the Confederacy was unable to supply its
army in the field. This hastened the end of
the “That a single stem of railroad [from
Louisville to Atlanta], 473 miles long,
supplied an army of 100,000 men and 35,000
animals for a period of 196 days . . . . That
amount of food and forage would have taken
36,800 wagons of six mules . . . each day, a
simple impossibility . . . in that region of the
General William T. Sherman, “Memoirs,”
Written during the Atlanta Campaign An example of a
Necktie” 7 Mississippi River Steamboats Steamboats waiting at a dock With the success of the Claremont on the Hudson River, in 1811
Robert Fulton brought the New Orleans to the Mississippi.
The steamboat quickly came to dominate commerce on the
Mississippi. Soon after their introduction, the cost of transporting one
ton of merchandise from New Orleans to St. Louis had fallen from $23
to $13, a price that would further decrease as technology improved
and more boats plied the waters. Between 1814 and 1834, the number
of steamboats docking in New Orleans each year increased from 20 to
By the end of the Civil War, railroads had largely supplanted
Mississippi River steamboat culture is chronicled in the writings of
8 Steamboat Wrecks
Steamboat 19th Century Steamboats were, by
any standard, incredibly dangerous.
Their wooden construction was
vulnerable to objects in the water
The boilers necessary to power the
ship often exploded with enough
force to reduce the boat to
On 27 April 1865, the boilers on the
steamboat Sultana exploded near
Memphis, killing 1,547 passengers
—more people than died on the
Titanic. Most of the people killed on the
Sultana were freed Union
POWs returning home from the
A new Steamboat was only
expected to remain in service for a A map of steamboat wrecks found in
only 160 miles of the Missouri River.
only 9 The Transcontinental Railroad
The The completion of the transcontinental railroad near
Promontory Point, Utah, 1869.
Promontory The transcontinental railroad was the
greatest technological achievement of the
Stretching 1800 miles from Omaha to
Sacramento, the railroad allowed the
complete integration of the western states
into the Union.
into The transcontinental railroad created
western cities such as Omaha and
Denver. The path of the original line is closely
mirrored by Interstate 80 today.
The railroad was built by two companies; the
Union Pacific and the Central Pacific which
received a payment from the federal
government for every mile of track
completed. The Central Pacific had a much more
difficult path, having to blast through the
Sierra Nevada Mountains.
Sierra An unknown number of people,
primarily Chinese immigrants were
killed in blasting accidents due to
the unstable explosives of the time.
The flood of white settlers the railroad
enabled doomed the Plains Indians.
enabled The railroad cut the cost of traveling to
San Francisco by 90%.
San Panama Canal By the turn of the century, French efforts to
build a canal through Panama faltered
primarily due to technological limitations
In 1904, the United States, viewing a canal
as essential to the economy sought to take
Panama was, at the time, part of Columbia.
The Columbian government, realizing the
economic necessity of the project for the
United States, demanded a large cash
payment to resume construction.
Rather than pay the Columbians, the United
States engineered a revolution to make
Panama an independent country.
Panama To discourage Columbian interference
with the revolution, a U.S. Navy
gunboat was stationed off of the coast.
On the same day that Panama declared
independence, it granted the United States
the right to construct the canal.
The Americans succeeded where the
French failed because of improvements in
canal technology and quinine, a cure for
When the canal was competed in 1904, a
ship traveling from San Francisco to New
York could save 8,000 miles from its
journey. Boats building the Panama Canal
Over 30 years of construction between the Americans and
French, 80,000 laborers worked on the canal, 30,000 of whom
died. 11 Multimedia Citation
Citation Slide 1: http://www.historylink.org/db_images/bjwp01.JPG
Slide 3: http://library.thinkquest.org/4132/steamship.jpg
Slide 4: http://www.history.rochester.edu/canal/images/1.jpg
Slide 5: http://www.americaslibrary.gov/jb/nation/jb_nation_train_1_e.html
Slide 6: http://history.sandiego.edu/gen/maps/1800s/1851railroads.jpg
Slide 7: http://ngeorgia.com/images/shermannecktie.jpg
Slide 8: http://www.yale.edu/terc/democracy/may1text/images/Steamboats.jpg
Slide 10: http://americanhistory.si.edu/ONTHEMOVE/collection/object_370.html
http://web.umr.edu/~rogersda/umrcourses/ge342/SS%20Ancon%20first%20transit%20Pana 12 ...
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- Spring '12
- The American