Room 6 - Canals and waterways - early 19th century


People wanted to go farther and faster. There were few roads. Roads were narrow and made of dirt. When it rained, you could get stuck. You had to pay a lot of money to use the best roads.

In some parts of the country, there were rivers and lakes that could be used with boats and ships. However, these rivers and lakes did not always connect. That meant people had to walk or use a wagon or horse between the waterways.


How do you think they solved the problem of waterways that did not connect? If you think they connected them, you are right. They dug canals to connect waterways so that people and goods could travel on water farther and farther into the country.



Canals are an important chapter in the history of transportation in our country. They helped move people and goods from factories West while shipping farms goods to the East. They opened the Great Lakes to settlement.


Canals are still used today.



Building a canal was not easy. Not only did you have to dig out dirt but often you had to get a way to connect two water ways which were not on the same level. How could they connect two waterways when one was higher than another? They built Locks to move boats up or down to the next waterway.


  Activity - In a sand table or sand box, make a river and a lake that do not connect. Build canals to connect the two.

 Visit the National Canal Museum