This image depicts the workings of an antebellum canal, like the Erie
or Illinois and Michigan. Horses, walking on towpaths at the canal's
edge, pulled boats laden with cargo to their destination. Completed
in 1825, the Erie Canal linked New York's Hudson River with Lake Erie,
thereby allowing passengers and goods to travel from the Atlantic Ocean
to the Great Lakes. At the western end of the lakes, Illinois received
many immigrants traveling by this water route. In 1848 the Illinois
and Michigan canal linked the Great Lakes to the Illinois River, and
thus to the Mississippi, opening up the interior of the United States.
But by the 1850s the rapid growth of faster railroads provided water
transportation with stiff competition.