Transportation was essential to economic development,
and the need became more critical with westward expansion. Factories
might be considered undemocratic, but there was no doubt that you needed roads
to unify the 13 colonies into a nation. Note particularly how
transportation technology was adapted to meet American conditions.
- First turnpike (improved toll road) in Virginia
in 1785. 1796-1814 Mass. chartered 97 turnpike companies.
- in 1775 it took a week to go from Boston to New
York by land, in 1800 it took four days.
- cleared and leveled land, built simple wooden bridges
(even floating bridges to cross deep ponds). Large rivers were crossed
- 1785 bridge over the Connecticut at Bellows Falls--wooden
bridge 365 feet, 50 feet above river--build by a simple carpenter.
- Bridges longer than a single stringer were build
first with arches then with trusses--Burr Truss was one American innovation
than combined the two.
A Burr Truss Covered Bridge
- Many proposals for canals in late 18th century,
but the expertise did not exist except for mill races and a few short canals
- First canal completed was the Santee Canal in 1800,
connecting Charleston with Columbia.
- First major project initiated was the Middlesex
- Planning for the
began about 1804, construction authorized in 1816 after much unskilled study.
Completed in 1825--at 363 miles the longest canal in the world.
of the Completion of the Erie Canal
- experiments as early as 1780s both in England and
American, but the need was greater in America.
- a lot of varied speculation, including an 1785
paper by Benjamin Franklin in which he concluded that paddlewheels were inefficient
and proposed jet propulsion.
- This put John Fitch on the wrong track--his mechanic
convinced him not to try water jets but he worked on crank and
instead of paddle wheels. he did demonstrate a boat in 1787 and run
boats on the Mississippi in a commercial operation as early as 1790, although
he ultimately failed.
- Robert Fulton trained in England and France (he
had gone to London originally to study art but ended up studying civil engineering).
He built his first commercially successful steamboat for the Hudson starting
operation in 1807 (with a promise of a 20 year monopoly from the NY legislature)
with a 133 ft. boat called the
with twin sidewheels. He used a Watt
engine and built his boats for passenger comfort and speed.
The Clermont, from an early history of steam power
- He also ran boats on the Mississippi, but they didn't
do very well.
- Other engineers solved the problems of adaptation
of the steam boat to
- The key innovation was the high-pressure steam
engine invented by Oliver Evans in 1801. Dominated western steamboats
because less fouled by muddy water.
- Gradual development of shallow hull and flat bottom,
upper decks, horizontal engine (easier to connect to a stern paddlewheel.
- Extremely profitable--sometimes 100% a trip.
Henry Shreve did the best job of putting all these innovation together and
also invented the
- The steam boat was the first time the United States
took the lead in developing a major new technology
- started with short horsedrawn lines--eg. Granite
Railroad, Quincy, Mass., 2 miles long, also in coal mines
Best Friend of
- From Charleston to Hamburg on the Savannah River--136
miles opened in 1833. The South Carolina Canal and Rail-Road Company
hired an engineer names Horatio Allen who not only built the first domestic-built
Best Friend of Charleston
, but also was a pioneer in the 1830s in adapting locomotive design to American
conditions by inventing the swivel truck.
- the railroad met a tremendous need and grew quickly
Adapting the railroad to American conditions:
started with the problem that English locomotives were
too heavy and rigid--distances were long, iron track was expensive.
Inventions concentrated on the problem of cost/mile
- wooden ties in loose gravel instead of granite blocks
- T-rail--requires less iron and skilled labor
construction (image HD217)
- equalizing lever suspension (1839) to prevent damage
on rough roadbeds
- swivel truck--jointed locomotive for sharp curves
- engines that burned anthracite (though wood lasted
a long time)
- cowcatcher--because roads were not walled off.
Isaac Dripps first design impaled the cow on prongs--difficulty of extricating
the cow alive led to design to sweep the cow aside
- gauge standardized by law in 1863--30 years after
England. Issue of states rights but also Erie Railroad deliberately
chose 6 ft. gauge to prevent diversion of traffic
- standard time 1883
The John Bull,
imported in 1831
Government helped with the huge expense.
The railroad brought modern management and a national
market. These led to
and consumer culture.
- State charters gave privileges of eminent domain,
sometimes monopoly, no taxes--about 20% of railroad capital came from state
purchase of stock and loans
- Many projects failed, eg.
north of Walhalla
- Federal congress started early debating land grants
--debates over the constitution and sectional jealousies over the route.
- In 1850 there was a federal land grant for a railroad
from Illinois to Alabama, but the transcontinental railroad was blocked by
route partisans until the civil war.
- 1862 Pacific Railway act set a route from Omaha
Nebraska to Sacramento Calif, completed May 10,
. Other routes in 1880s.
A timeline of railway
This page written and copyright
Pamela E. Mack
last updated 9/27/2002