Transportation in the first half of the 19th Century

During the first half of the
19th century, improvements in transportation developed
rather quickly. Roads, steamboats, canals, and railroads all
had a positive effect on the American economy. They also
provided for a more diverse United States by allowing more
products to be sold in new areas of the country and by
opening new markets. Copied from ideas begun in England
and France, American roads were being built everywhere. In
an attempt to make money, private investors financed many
turnpikes, expecting to profit from the tolls collected.
Although they did not make as much money as expected,
these roads made it possible for cheaper (not cheap)
domestic transportation of goods. It still cost more to
transport a ton of freight a few miles over land than it did to
send it across the Atlantic Ocean. But because of turnpikes,
for the first time, goods were able to make it over the
formidable Appalachian mountains. The steamboat was the
first economical means of inland transport. It was faster and
cheaper then the rafts used before them. Additionally, the
steamboats made it possible to travel back up the
Mississippi, allowing farmers and lumbermen to come down
by raft, and travel home in the luxurious comfort of a
steamboat after selling their goods. This also made the
northwest less self-dependent because it was now able to
purchase southern goods. While steamboats sparked the
economy on the western frontier, canals became increasingly
popular on the east coast. Although expensive ($25,000 per
mile), and difficult to build, canals were an important source
for those farmers and merchants who needed a cheap
method of inland transportation. The water allowed horses,
once only able to pull a ton of materials, to now pull over a
hundred tons with the same amount of work. These canals
were not only economical for exporters, but also for the
state. Tolls alone collected from the Erie Canal had, by
1825, already paid for the entire project ($7,000,000), and
now was making a substantial amount of profit. Even though
it had not totally expanded yet, the cheapest, most
economical method of transportation was the railroad.
Speed, durability, and safety all contributed to the success of
it. State legislatures and the national government all provided
aid to the railroad companies by decreased the tax on rail
iron. During this time period, manufacturing also boomed.
New ideas and inventions made it faster to produce
products. However, it is because of these new modes of
transportation that this was ever able to occur. The cotton
gin, invented by Eli Whitney, would never have been able to
develop fully if the transportation system did not make it
easy to obtain cotton from the south. With these new
technological breakthroughs, American economic growth
was significantly increased. By allowing cheaper importation
and exportation of goods, manufacturers were able to
produce more of these products. Also, it opened new
markets to different places. In the northwest, where coffee
was an expensive luxury (costing almost seventeen cents per
pound), it was now a common item. The steamboat reduced
the price by over thirteen cents. Also, our new transportation
system helped other regions work together. And aside from
material items, our country benefited economically from
tourism. Any tourist to the New York area would not miss
"The Great Western Canal." So although manufacturing did
have a significant role in developing the American economy,
it is because of transportation that manufacturing could have
ever improved.

Category: History