Canals, Railroads, and Repudiation in Pennsylvania

Submitted by CTHS on March 04, 2017 - 5:46 pm

This speaker program is about transportation, it’s financing and the problems that go with it.  But to start, it goes back to the first major State transportation project – canals, then its replacement - railroads.  In the 1820’s both the citizens of Pennsylvania and the government wanted to expand settlement and commerce west of the Susquehanna River and Allegheny mountains. At that time, there were only turnpike roads or the National Highway to take westward. In those days, it took a horse drawn freight wagon twenty-three days to cross the State. Thus the Pennsylvania Assembly of 1824 proposed Right of ways mainly for the building of canals of the Main Line of Public Works to be built across the southern part of Pennsylvania. The period was before commercial railroads existed, while the focus of the act was to create through building a canal system, the capability to ship heavy or bulk goods (and soon after passengers) and connect Philadelphia to Pittsburgh. More importantly the new canal system would amplify the new and growing markets in the developing territories reached by the Ohio River now called the mid-west. This new canal transportation would reduce the same cross-state trip to just four and one half (4½) days depending on the weather. However, such an undertaking, which cost $25,000,000, had to be financed entirely by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, as did the current concrete highways (shared with State and Federal money).  Constructed between 1826 and 1834, the hybrid canal system was 395 miles long and the state took on a lot of debt.

Event Date
March 05, 2017 - 2:00 pm