Erie Canal: Fact, Fiction, Reality & Myth

College of the Holy Cross

Edward O’Donnell is a professor of history at College of the Holy Cross. He is the author of several books, including Henry George and the Crisis of Inequality: Progress and Poverty in the Gilded Age. He frequently contributes op-eds to publications like Newsweek and The Huffington Post, and has been featured on PBS, the History Channel, the Discovery Channel, and C-SPAN. O’Donnell also has curated several major museum exhibits on American history and appeared in several historical documentaries. He currently hosts a history podcast, “In the Past Lane.”




Before the building of the Interstate Highway System under President Eisenhower in the 1950s, the greatest public works project in US history was the Erie Canal. Built between 1817-1825, it stretched an astonishing 373 miles across upstate New York to connect the Hudson River with Lake Erie. Now manufactured goods from eastern states and Europe could flow into the American heartland in exchange for commodities like grain, furs, and lumber. The canal triggered extraordinary national economic growth and transformed New York City into the “Empire City” as it surpassed rival ports like Boston and Philadelphia. In this talk, we’ll examine the visionaries behind the canal, the incredible feats of engineering it required, the workers who did the grunt work, the many copycat canal projects (most destined to fail) that it inspired, and the ultimate fate of the canal over the course of the 19th century.



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Richard Noel

Very good ...

Covered much more than the Erie Canal which necessitated not going into the details of how the Erie Canal was built and operated due to time constraints. Would have preferred a series of presentations with more detail and that built upon each other to provide a deeper understanding. None-the-less, fully enjoyed it … Thanks !

2 years ago

Knowledgeable and simply excellent!

1 year ago
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