The United States was a new republic in 1817. The generation of its original revolutionaries was fast dying; a second war with Great Britain had recently been settled; and expansionism was the mood of the day. The "children of the founders," as Carol Sheriff calls this first 19th-century American generation, sought to make its mark with engineering projects that would further national growth and prove to Europe that the new nation "played a leading role in God's plan to improve the earthly world." It did so in grand style with the Erie Canal, a huge waterway that linked Atlantic seaports with the Great Lakes. Sheriff's vigorous account of the canal's conception and building makes for an epic story and fascinating reading.
From Publishers Weekly
As an early-19th-century public works project, the Erie Canal dwarfed all others in terms of cost, size and imagination. By connecting Buffalo to Albany, the canal opened a waterway between New York City and the Great Lakes, dramatically transforming U.S. commerce and industry. In this work, which began as a dissertation, Sheriff, who teaches history at William and Mary, does an effective job of examining the impact of improved transportation on various segments of society: ditchdiggers, farmers, merchants, canal boat captains, politicians, housewives and missionaries. Most interesting is her finding that many of the motifs that define our current age began with the creation of the canal. From family values to government entitlements, and from government deficits to environmental destruction, today's issues seem to be reflected in this antebellum history. Illustrations not seen by PW.
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Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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