On this day (-1) in 1825, America completed an enterprise that would make even a pyramid builder blush. When it was first proposed, nearly every government official who looked at it said it couldn’t be done and it would be a waste of millions of dollars when the country was already carrying a huge debt. No less a figure that Thomas Jefferson called it “Sheer Madness” when it had been proposed just 8 years earlier.
And on paper it surely looked like madness. Nothing like it had even been built before. To build it would require tools not even invented yet. And its structure needed material that science said couldn’t be developed (like cement that could be poured and cured under 4 feet of water).
The sitting Federal Government urged a “no vote” saying the money was needed for higher priorities like defense. States that were not involved in the project argued that no Federal Funds should be used.
So with improper tools, improper material, borrowed money and project directors who had no skills at building anything similar, they set to work. They built a miracle through nearly 400 miles of mountains, swamps and wilderness forest. They even fought off malaria by having workers wear smoking “cat tails” on their clothes. (An interesting solution, since it was some 80 years before science connected malaria with mosquitoes.)
The result was the Erie Canal, one of America’s most successful enterprises. It helped make the nation an economic power and sped the development of the mid-west. And about that staggering cost – – well, it was $7 million, but the canal was so successful the bondholders were paid back in just 11 years.
We need these reminders of our proud history, America was once a great country, and we can make it great again. Click to Enlarge this photo: