What Was the Transportation Revolution, Why Was It Needed and What Did It Tie Together

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The Transportation Revolution began in the early 1800's as an effort to dramatically improve transportation in America. The Transportation Revolution included greatly improved roads, the development of canals, and the invention of the steamboat and railroad. In 1800, there were only 23 cities with over 100,000 citizens by 1900 there were 135 cities with over 100,000 citizens. There were several types of cities: cities that focused on the textile industry, cities that produced whiskey and hemp, and other southern cities that produced agriculture crops. The Industrial Revolution is one of the major causes of the Transportation Revolution; each of the three economic regions needed an affordable yet fast means of transporting their goods to another. The transportation revolution was the period in which steam power, railroads, canals, roads, and bridges emerged as new forms of transportation, beginning in the 1830s. This allowed Americans to travel across the country and transport goods into new markets that weren’t previously available. Shipping costs were lowered as much as 90 percent in this era, which gave a big boost to trade and the settlement of new areas of land.

The key to development of the west was a good transportation system, one which would allow people and goods to move relatively easily and cheaply. Time and distance were a real problem in 1801. For example, it took four days to go from New York City to Boston, a week to get to Pittsburgh, and twenty-eight days to get to Detroit. The cost of shipping was a problem as well. In 1816, the cost of shipping a ton thirty miles overland in the United States was the same as shipping the same ton to England.

Turnpikes were the first solution. It was financially successful, setting off a wave of turnpike construction. The US government began funding the National Road (today is US 40) in 1811. The road started in Cumberland, Maryland and went into present-day Wheeling, West Virginia on the Ohio River. By...
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