In order to create regional, national and international markets, strong commerce, trade and transportation are necessary. During the 1800’s, social change became more prominent in different areas of the country such as the South and Midwest. As economic prosperity grew, the need for new and more efficient means of transportation grew as well. Through the development of new transportation technologies such as canals and railroads, America saw a large increase in the monetary flow and stability of the economy along with a changing social and political climate during the period of 1820-1860.
The growth of the American economy began to boom in the first portion of the nineteenth century, when industry and agriculture called for the increase in transportation technology. Transportation alone did not improve the economy in America; a combination of industry and agriculture helped increased the movement of goods and decreased prices. In the early 1800’s, transportation systems such as canals grew in scale and profitability. Canal building increased jobs and set off a race for new thinkers to come up with better ways of transportation.
The Erie Canal, in particular, opened in October 1825 and not only did it allow New York to compete with New Orleans in wheat trade, it was also a profitable venture. The canal, paid off in full through tolls, started bringing in profits in seven years time. The rapid improvement in steam technology during the 1820’s led to a faster way of transporting goods and people on canals through steamboats. Steamboats permitted the transport of goods throughout the year rather than just in the warm seasons.
The lack of a keel on the boats allowed for further penetration into shallower waters and to more previously inaccessible regions of the waterways, and to move through muddy water much more easily. This new faster method of shipping goods led to a drop in the price of transporting goods while simultaneously increasing profits because of shortened shipping times. A new technology emerged in the 1820’s-30’s along with canals; the railroad. As popularity grew, competitive entrepreneurs saw a new market for profit and opened rival railroad companies which helped to increase the amount of tracks being laid. nd The National Road, Railroads, and canals allowed the farmers to move produce to the east and factory owners to move their goods into the west and back again much more easily and quickly, thus causing the price of these goods to drop accordingly. The necessity for funding of increasingly large scale projects grew immensely in the 1850’s. Private investors provided part of the funding, and railroad companies also borrowed increasing amounts from abroad; this increased economic ties with foreign nations and built trust.
The Federal government supported railroads with more land grants than ever before and the purchasing of stocks also saw a rise. After 1850 the railroad helped to stimulate the growth of agriculture and settlement in the mid-west. By 1860, the mid-western states surpassed the east in wheat production through the quick production and transport of the produce from the Mid-west to the eastern states. This increased the farms’ values and further promoted migration. In major cities like Chicago and Cincinnati, who facilitated the trade of agriculture, the need to transport goods quickly helped to boost their economies respectively.
These cities then grew into centers of trade and mid-west commerce. Evolutions in transportation forged a close economic relationship between the old Northwest and the Northeast, but they also weakened the North’s relationship with the South. The growing profits in the upper states combined with a feeling of separation by the Southern states started to influence not just economics but social ideas as well. Throughout the Industrial Revolution and into the 20th century, aspects of the American social world began to change.
The system of water transportation through canals implanted new ideas into settlers who previously did not want to migrate farther into the Northwest. The need for new workers and the increasing amount of money to be made by expanding westward created more reasons for settlers and immigrants to move to new lands with fertile soil. The increasing number of immigrants into America, such as the Scotch-Irish and Chinese, influenced new ideas and further differentiated the Northern and Southern states.
Furthering these changing conditions, the competition of railroads and canals created a social rift between the northwest and the south. The geography of southern states slowed canal building and the rapid increase of railroads in the 1850’s further divided people. The northwest was becoming more and more connected due to railroads like the Erie Railroad and the Albany & New York Central while the South was losing connectedness. This culture gap only helped to further he South’s growing sense of insecurity within the union. Although the north and south became more socially distanced, the vast system of railroads in the United States moved goods and people across great distances, facilitated the settlement of large portions of the country, created towns and cities, and still unified a nation as a whole, with few differences. Although few in number, the differences seen in the North and the South grew into one of the largest social differences: slavery.
The growing wariness in Southern states created a political “schism” that changed the structure of the nation. A touchy subject throughout American history, the political implications caused by slavery played a large role in creating a separation between the North and the South. The North was slave free, and the South relied heavily on slavery. With the Louisiana Purchase, the question of slavery became both geographical and political, and ushered in a period of national debate between pro- and anti-slavery states to gain political and economic advantage.
But by 1820, Congress was embroiled in the debate over how to divide the newly acquired territories into slave and free states. With new transportation techniques increasing the amount of goods, and people, flowing in and out of states and across the oceans, an interconnected nation was necessary to keep up with the demand for goods. New acts such as the Fugitive Slave Act, passed in 1850, made the federal government responsible for apprehending fugitive slaves in the North, and sending them back to the South.
This extended slavery and its enforcement beyond the South which upset the North. Transportation continued to grow as the North became more and more economically dependent on trade and the South became more and more dependent on agriculture and slavery as a basis for labor. Although slavery changed the economic needs and landscape for the North and South in different ways, as a whole America saw social unification rather than separation. Transportation in America in the early 19th century grew steadily at first, with few minor changes being imposed.
As the Industrial Revolution took hold in America, the social and economic landscape changed dramatically, facilitating a need for more advanced forms of transportation. The introduction of steamboats for canals, the grants given by the government to build larger and larger canals, and the eventual development of the railroad system all contributed to an interconnected nation, more economically prosperous and socially diverse than ever before. Profits soared as transportation methods changed, and the southern and northern states saw drastic changes in the social diversity and structure of their respective areas.
Slavery became a hot topic by creating political wariness and causing Congress to pass new Acts aimed at stabilizing differences in the North and the South, while transportation techniques and needs became more diverse than ever. The social, economic and political changes seen from the evolutions in transportation in the period of 1820-1860 created a more stable nation that grew into a dominating political economic and social entity that continued to advance transportation technology into the early 20th century and beyond.
Cite this 1800’s Transportation Us History
1800’s Transportation Us History. (2017, Feb 14). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/1800s-transportation-us-history/