New York State Canals: A Short History

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F. Daniel Larken. New York’s Erie Canal has long been heralded in story and song and the legendary waterway is well known to people throughout the world. Far fewer, though, are aware of the vast 524-mile canal network that still exists in the state. Although canals in New York first appeared in the eighteenth century, it was the building of the Erie Canal during the first quarter of the nineteenth century that launched New York State and the nation into the canal era; arguably, no other was as responsible for creating the “Empire State” as was the Erie. There is no question that the Erie Canal was an economic success. In addition to the business it brought the state, more than $120 million in tolls were collected on it during the nineteenth century, paying for its original cost and the first enlargement, as well as maintenance. But many of the state’s other canals did not share the Erie’s triumph, and the story of New York’s canals is one of contrast between those that contributed to the growth and development of the state and those that did not. Purple Mountain Press, 1998, 104pp.