Canals & Railroads

George Rogers Taylor
The Transportation Revolution, 1815-1860

“Most Americans of 1815 were born in the United States, for immigration had been relatively slight since the Revolution.” (3)

“From the farms by river or road came products for export, but this was the
back country; in 1815 every city seemed to face the sea...” (10)

“The building of the Erie Canal was an act of faith, the demonstration of a spirit of enterprise by an organized government that has few parallels in world history.” (well, okay, the pyramids...33)

“The Erie was enlarged and almost completely rebuilt at a cost of $44,500,000, a sum about six times the original investment.” (53)

“The community gains [of railroads], the advantages resulting to those who were not actually investors, often greatly exceeded those which accrued to stockholders.” (88)

“After private ventures had failed, Michigan in 1837 began an ambitious program of state railroad construction in which it was planned to span the state with three lines. By 1846, the two most southern...were in operation though not completed.” (91)

“Troy, New York, with a population of less than 20,000, pioneered the field of municipal ownership.” (91)

“There developed a sort of metropolitan mercantilism in which railroads, rather than merchant fleets, were the chief weapon of warfare.” (98)

“In the 1850s, railroad finance began to assume the form which characterized it during the following decades. Railroad bond issues became increasingly important and were marketed chiefly through eastern financial institutions.” (101)

So the railroad bond market helped familiarize investors everywhere with eastern financial markets, and when the state banks were killed during the Civil War, it was easy for people who had invested locally to turn toward these...

“the railways triumphed because they were soundly managed, well located, and built to meet present rather than future traffic needs...” (103)

“The itinerant sea merchant of 1815-1830 typically owned his own ship just as the peddler on land owned his horses and wagon.” (vs. common carriers...126)

cf. Daniel Raymond,
Thoughts on Political Economy, 1820, discussion of corporations.