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What Was The Transportation Revolution, Why Was It Needed And What Did It Tie Together

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The Transportation Revolution began in the early 1800's as an effort to dramatically improve transportation in America. The Transportation Revolution included greatly improved roads, the development of canals, and the invention of the steamboat and railroad. In 1800, there were only 23 cities with over 100,000 citizens by 1900 there were 135 cities with over 100,000 citizens. There were several types of cities: cities that focused on the textile industry, cities that produced whiskey and hemp, and other southern cities that produced agriculture crops. The Industrial Revolution is one of the major causes of the Transportation Revolution; each of the three economic regions needed an affordable yet fast means of transporting their goods to another. The transportation revolution was the period in which steam power, railroads, canals, roads, and bridges emerged as new forms of transportation, beginning in the 1830s. This allowed Americans to travel across the country and transport goods into new markets that weren’t previously available. Shipping costs were lowered as much as 90 percent in this era, which gave a big boost to trade and the settlement of new areas of land.

The key to development of the west was a good transportation system, one which would allow people and goods to move relatively easily and cheaply. Time and distance were a real problem in 1801. For example, it took four days to go from New York City to Boston, a week to get to Pittsburgh, and twenty-eight days to get to Detroit. The cost of shipping was a problem as well. In 1816, the cost of shipping a ton thirty miles overland in the United States was the same as shipping the same ton to England.

Turnpikes were the first solution. It was financially successful, setting off a wave of turnpike construction. The US government began funding the National Road (today is US 40) in 1811. The road started in Cumberland, Maryland and went into present-day Wheeling, West Virginia on the Ohio River. By 1833, it had reached Columbus, Ohio. This road became known as the Cumberland Road, which was the first connection of the east and the west. The road initially was a free road but soon became a toll road. Although these roads helped, shipping freight across them was expensive.

Next introduced were steamboats. Shipping by steamboats was cheaper and faster. If one used a wagon, there was the cost of lifting the cargo off the ground and keeping it there as well as the cost of moving the vehicle forward. A water vessel had the advantage of only having the cost of moving forward because the water lifted the cargo. The shallow draft steamboat, however, could carry large amounts of cargo even against the flow of a river. Robert Fulton's Clermont proved the practicality of steamboats in 1807. The Enterprise was introduced by Henry Shreve in 1814 and proved to be the answer to transportation across shallow western waters. By 1820, there were 60 steamboats on the Ohio and Mississippi rivers and countless others elsewhere.

Steamboats could ply the waters

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