The cities on the eastern coast of the United States needed to be connected with the western settlements so that both could do business. One of the first ideas to shorten the trip from New York City to Ohio was the wonderful Erie Canal.
An upstate New York miller named Jesse Hawley suggested digging a long ditch, a canal, from the Hudson River at Albany to the Great Lakes at Buffalo. Even President Jefferson thought it was a crazy idea, but New York Governor Dewitt Clinton liked it and pushed through government funding for construction. For eight years—from 1817 to 1825—crews worked to dig the canal. It was an engineering marvel. How did they figure out how much dirt needed to be moved, or how much of a slice to take out of hill? From what I understand, there was never an accredited engineer on the building site. Back in those days, presumably, a kid’s grade school education included Euclid’s Elements (I’m not kidding. Up until 100 or so years ago Elements was the #2 bestseller after the Bible).
When the canal was done, you could get to the MidWest from New York City in less than half the time of a stagecoach.
“Canal packet boat passengers traveled in relative comfort from Albany to Buffalo in five days—not two weeks in crowded stagecoaches. Freight rates fell 90 percent compared to shipping by ox-drawn wagon. Freight boats carried Midwestern produce from Buffalo to Albany. Most continued on to New York City’s seaport, towed down the Hudson River in fleets behind steam tugboats. Mid-western farmers, loggers, miners, and manufacturers found new access to lucrative far-flung markets.”
This site has a really good video about the canal—https://eriecanalway.org/learn/history-culture
Here’s Bruce Springsteen singing the Erie Canal song—