Inexpensive transportation and a strategic location were vital elements in New York’s growth. Canals, railroads and new types of ships were developed, enabling the state’s manufactured products to reach a vast market throughout the nation. All trade from New England to the West and South had to pass through New York State, and the Mohawk Valley was the best route for westward migration. Before 1860 the state’s system of natural waterways, with outlets to the Atlantic Ocean and the Great Lakes, was the most important means of transporting goods and passengers. Soon after inventor Robert Fulton successfully tested the first efficient steamboat on the Hudson River in 1807, steamboats were operating on lakes Champlain, Ontario, and Erie; on Long Island Sound; and on the Hudson River. Shipbuilders on the East River in New York City built clipper ships that carried goods to the West Coast of the continent and to Asia. New York City was the center of all trade between Europe and the United States; even cotton from the South passed through the city on its way to England.
The Erie Canal, built between 1817 and 1825, was the state’s most important water route. The 584-km (363-mi) canal linked the Great Lakes with the Hudson River, making New York City the marketing outlet for agricultural and industrial products from upstate New York and the Great Lakes regions. It also carried immigrants from New York City to settle on the newly opened farmland of the Midwest. By 1857 nearly 1,450 km (900 mi) of secondary canals linked such places as Binghamton and Oswego with the Erie Canal. The Champlain Canal connected Lake Champlain to the Hudson River and was an important factor in spurring the development of the lumber industry in the Adirondack region. In 1831 New York’s first railroad began operations between Albany and Schenectady.
Within ten years, lines were running from Albany to Buffalo. In 1851 the Erie Railroad was completed, connecting the counties of southern New York with Lake Erie and the Hudson River. It was an important factor in the economic development of the region.
The state also chartered many turnpike companies to build toll roads between important points. By 1825 more than 6,400 km (4,000 mi) of turnpike roads were in use. Although these early roads were crude, they greatly helped farmers move their produce to market. It was not until the development of the automobile that roads became as important to New York as water and rails. "New York" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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