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Commissioners on Canal Routes from Boston Harbour. Report, 1826
SEE ALSO the Appendix to these documents. Canals were all the rage in the 1820s, so Massachusetts did not want to be left behind. Industry was
making great strides in the state, manufacturing products that could easily be transported by canal boat, so there was popular and political will to build
canals. The Governor, on January 11, 1826, submitted to the General Court the Report on Canals to the Connecticut River and the Hudson River. Two
routes to the Connecticut River and two routes from the Connecticut River to the Hudson River were surveyed in considerable detail. It is impossible
to make much sense out of the information without detailed maps and these are not present. [Some maps are in the Appendix.] Mountain ranges in western
Massachusetts posed substantial difficulties for canals, but the engineers were sure these could be managed. The documents showed that wherever there
was a waterfall, there were one or more factories taking advantage of the water power. These factories would be customers of any canal. At P. 60 is
an analysis of the Boston to Connecticut River routes followed by a report from L. Baldwin, Engineer. He argued for a wide canal with locks the same
size as the Erie Canal to facilitate long haul loads. Industry would benefit most from large loads, not small ones. A canal would require aqueducts,
locks, and likely a tunnel; his gross cost estimate was $3 million. At P. 116, the route from the Connecticut River to the Hudson River was
presented. In the western part of the state, the Hoosack Mountain was the primary obstacle to a canal. The writer felt a tunnel, while expensive, was less
expensive than the aqueducts and locks alternative. At P. 142, General Hoyt presented the Deerfield River route, also blocked by the Hoosack Mountain.
He also came up with $3 million for construction. Beginning at P. 149, there was a history of canals in general and exhortations to dream big and build
bravely. Tolls on the Erie Canal were about $9.50/ton; it took New York about ten years to pay off construction costs. The writer suggested amassing
a canal fund that would prove the State could pay the interest on the large loan required. Sales of public lands, a lottery, and four other
suggestions were offered to build the fund. There was a rosy expectation of toll income. Then the railroads came and few of the Massachusetts canals were
built. The Appendix contained 39 numbered letters in which the Commission gathered information. Several communities volunteered information because
they wanted the canal to pass through or near them. The commissioners asked for opinions and information from the Governors of the contiguous states.
Letter no. 23 has lots of information about the construction and management of the Erie Canal. (Digitized from a microfilm copy of title originally
held by the Massachusetts State Library).
Title:   Report of the Commissioners of the state of Massachusetts on the routes of canals from Boston Harbour to Connecticut and Hudson Rivers.
OCLC Number:   733087607
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