The Transportation Revolution in the United States

4 April 2015
This paper argues that, even prior to the advent of the railroads, a transportation revolution had taken place in the United States in the early nineteenth century.

The following paper argues that there were two developments that were most important in constituting a transportation revolution: Steamboat navigation and the construction of the great canals. This paper focuses on the building of the Erie Canal which constituted a revolution in its own right. The writer asserts that it was on account of the transportation revolution of the 1815-30 period that the American economy was decisively transformed into a capitalistic one.
“In 1800, the United States did not lack a transport infrastructure, but it was a very poor one. With the exception of cities and towns located on the Atlantic coastline or along navigable waterways, there was literally no means of transporting agricultural produce and manufactured items to or from market centers other than country roads. These roads were unpaved, infrequently maintained and often impassable in wet weather (Taylor 15-16). A diary passage from 1817 gives some sense of their condition: “I returned from Baltimore a few days earlier. Had wet weather muddy Roads and my flour condemned” (qted. in Majewski 46). By 1860, however, America’s infrastructure had so greatly improved that the country was in the throes of a major economic transformation. On the eve of the Civil War, writes Peter Way, the United States, although still largely an agricultural nation, was competitive, market-driven and increasingly dominated by relatively large business organizations fueled by multitudes of unattached workers”
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