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Historical Images of the Erie Canal

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The Opening of the Erie Canal

Not until April 15, 1817 was the whole plan solidified into a legislative act by which funds were provided for the construction of a canal 363 miles in length, with a surface width of 40 feet, a bottom width of 18 feet, and a water channel four feet in depth. But when the start fairly had been made the work went ahead rapidly. Ground was broken that same year, on July 4th, at Rome, on the middle section; and the excavation and structural work were pushed with such diligence that the canal was opened for traffic in but little more than eight years.

Opening of The Erie Canal -- a Print by Howard Pyle The marriage of the waters The marriage of the waters
"Opening of The Erie Canal" -- an Engraving of a Print by Howard Pyle (1853-1911). From The "Evolution of New York", by Thomas A. Janvier, in "Harper's New Monthly Magazine", Vol. 87, no. 517, June 1893. (4 3/4 x 7 1/2 in.) "The Marriage of the Waters" by C.Y. Turner, 1905 -- A mural decoration in the DeWitt Clinton High School, N.Y.C. depicting Governor DeWitt Clinton pouring water from Lake Erie into the ocean at New York in a ceremony celebrating the "Marriage of the Waters" between Lake Erie and the Atlantic in 1825. (Also available on the New York State Canals Site.) "Opening of the Erie Canal". From: History of the United States (no publisher information), p. 169, 1895? (4 x 4 1/4 in.)
Opening of The Erie Canal Wedding of the Lakes with the Ocean  
"Opening of the Erie Canal, in 1825" / [drawing by] A.R.W. ; engraved by] Swinton So. -- From an unidentified history text, p. 167 ; approximately 1890? "Wedding of the Lakes with the Ocean" -- From: Our Country (no publisher information), Book V, chap. XVII, p. 1331. (3 1/4 x 4 1/4 in.)  

A picturesque celebration of "the wedding of the waters" followed the completion of the work. On the morning of October 26, 1825, the first flotilla of canal-boats bound for the seaboard left Buffalo, starting at the signal of a cannon fired at the Erie in-take. This shot straightway was echoed guns having been stationed at regular intervals down the whole length of the new waterway, and thence onward down the Hudson to New York; where, precisely one hour and twenty-five minutes after the first gun had been fired beside the lake, the last gun was fired beside the sea. During another hour and twenty-five minutes the answer from the ocean to the inland waters went thundering onward into the northwest.

And then, at this end of the line, the enthusiasm aroused in so thrilling a fashion had a whole fortnight in which to cool while the boats were crawling eastward. Yet crawling is a dull word to apply to what really was a triumphal progress. It would be more in harmony with the oratorical spirit of the occasion to say that the boats came eastward on the crest of a wave of popular rejoicing.

At five o'clock on the morning of November 4th this fresh-water cyclone completed the last stage of its eventful progress "a grand procession, consisting of nearly all the vessels in [the] port [of New York] gaily decked with colors of all nations," went down to the lower bay where Governor Clinton, from the deck of the United States schooner Dolphin, poured a libation of the fresh water brought from Lake Erie into the salt water of the Atlantic Ocean and so typified the joining together of the inland and the outland seas.

From "The Evolution of New York", an article by Thomas A. Janvier from "Harper's New Monthly Magazine", Vol. 87, no. 517 (June 1893), p.26-28.

Old Lithographs, Paintings, Woodcuts, Etc.

Travelling on the Erie Canal View on the Erie Canal
"Travelling on the Erie Canal" by H. Inman -- from: The Northern Traveller and Northern Tour. New ed. published by J. & J. Harper, 1831. (4 3/8 in. x 2 5/8 in.) -- Reproduction available from The Farmer's Museum, Cooperstown, NY. "View on the Erie Canal" by John William Hill, 1830-1832. (Watercolor on paper, 9 3/4 x 13 3/4 in.). From The New York Public Library, I.N. Phelps Stokes Collection of American Historical Prints.
Entrance of the Canal into the Hudson at Albany Left: From "A Geological and Agricultural Survey of the District Adjoining the Erie Canal in the State of New York", by Stephen Rensselaer (Printed by Packard & Van Benthuysen, 1824) -- courtesy of the Department of Rare Books & Special Collections, University of Rochester Library. Also appeared in "Laws of the State of New York" (1825) and Cadwallader Colden's "Memoir" (1825), and was also used on English Staffordshire pottery.
"Entrance of the Canal into the Hudson at Albany", by James Eights.
Junction of the Champlain and Erie Canals Left: From "Memoir, prepared at the request of a committee of the Common Council of the City of New York, and presented to the mayor of the city, at the celebration of the completion of the New York canals", by Cadwallader D. Colden. (New York : Printed by order of the Corporation of New York, 1825) ; print
(6 x 9 in.); facing p. 309.
"View of the Junction of the Northern and Western Canals" [Champlain and Erie] / drawn on stone by F. Duponchel from a Sketch by C. Rhind Esqr. (Imbert's Litho N.Y.).

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