The Erie Canal: A Story of Building the Impossible


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“[The Erie Canal] is a splendid project and may be executed a century hence, but it is little short of madness to think of it at this day.” President Thomas Jefferson, 1809

Once completed in 1825, the Erie Canal between Buffalo and Albany not only opened up the first viable shipping route between the Midwest and Northeast, but also launched America — especially New York City and New York State — to unimaginable economic and social heights. But how was one of the country’s greatest engineering feats of the 19th century created at a time when the nation lacked a single certified civil engineer? This is the incredible story of how one visionary New York politician, two lawyers with novice surveyor skills, and thousands of unskilled laborers constructed one of the greatest modern marvels in this nation’s history.

Join New York Adventure Club as we explore the saga and lasting legacy of the Erie Canal — officially opened in 1825, this 363 mile-long canal traversing a mountain range allowed the Northeast and Midwest United States to affordably exchange goods for the first time, which catapulted the economies of both regions for generations to come.

Led by storyteller and author Sandy Schuman, our virtual deep dive into the shallow waters of the Erie Canal will include:

  • Where the idea for the canal came from, why it was needed, and the reasons New York was uniquely suited for its location
  • How ominous construction challenges were overcome by a group of untrained engineers and workers, from clearing trees along the entire route to building the 60-foot high “Flight of Five” locks in Lockport, NY
  • New York politician DeWitt Clinton’s key role in the canal’s construction and completion
  • The canal’s socioeconomic impact on New York City, upstate cities and towns, and the Midwest
  • A look at the canal’s enlargement, replacement, demise, and resurrection over the past two centuries

Afterward, we’ll have a Q&A with Sandy — any and all questions about the Erie Canal are welcomed and encouraged!

Can’t make it live? Don’t worry, you’ll have access to the full replay for one week!

See you there, virtually!

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