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Canal Scene
Canal Scene

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.

Image source: Public domain
©Copyright 2002 Abraham Lincoln Historical Digitization Project