Transportation in the First Half of the 19th Century

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During the first half of the

19th century, improvements in transportation developed

rather quickly. Roads, steamboats, canals, and railroads all

had a positive effect on the American economy. They also

provided for a more diverse United States by allowing more

products to be sold in new areas of the country and by

opening new markets. Copied from ideas begun in England

and France, American roads were being built everywhere. In

an attempt to make money, private investors financed many

turnpikes, expecting to profit from the tolls collected.

Although they did not make as much money as expected,

these roads made it possible for cheaper (not cheap)

domestic transportation of goods. It still cost more to

transport a ton of freight a few miles over land than it did to

send it across the Atlantic Ocean. But because of turnpikes,

for the first time, goods were able to make it over the

formidable Appalachian mountains. The steamboat was the

first economical means of inland transport. It was faster and

cheaper then the rafts used before them. Additionally, the

steamboats made it possible to travel back up the

Mississippi, allowing farmers and lumbermen to come down

by raft, and travel home in the luxurious comfort of a

steamboat after selling their goods. This also made the

northwest less self-dependent because it was now able to

purchase southern goods. While steamboats sparked the

economy on the western frontier, canals became increasingly

popular on the east coast. Although expensive ($25,000 per

mile), and difficult to build, canals were an important source

for those farmers and merchants who needed a cheap

method of inland transportation. The water allowed horses,

once only able to pull a ton of materials, to now pull over a

hundred tons with the same amount of work. These canals

were not only economical for exporters, but also for the

state. Tolls alone collected from...
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