Opened in 1825, the Erie Canal was the engineering marvel of its day and became another example of how engineering opened doors for economic development--in this case for transporting goods more cheaply. To bring in supplies as work progressed, roads had to be built every step of the way. All 363 miles were built by the muscle power of men and horses alone, with the exception of a few places where black powder was used to blast through rock formations. Many had derided the project as "Clinton's Folly," but New York Gov. DeWitt Clinton envisioned a canal from Buffalo on the eastern shore of Lake Erie to Albany on the upper Hudson River.
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Fun Fact:The Erie Canal's success was part of a canal-building boom in New York in the 1820s. Between 1823 and 1828, several lateral canals opened including the Champlain, the Oswego, and the Cayuga-Seneca. When planning for the Erie Canal started, there was not a single school of engineering in the U.S.