Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Erie Canal

The Erie Canal

Andrew Santella
For ages 7 to 10
Capstone Point , 2005   ISBN: 978-0756506797

In the early 1800's most Americans lived in the original colonies along the Atlantic coast. To travel into the interior was a dangerous and time consuming business. There were, however, many people who wanted to go to the heart of the country where there was plenty of land for farms. Between the Atlantic states and the center of the county there were the Appalachian Mountains. Stretching from Maine to Georgia, these mountains presented travelers with a considerable problem. There were also very few navigable rivers that made their way west. Somehow a new way to go west had to be found.

In 1784 an Irish engineer suggested that a canal should be built "along the Mohawk River from Albany to Lake Erie." Such a canal would make it possible to link the eastern states with America's interior. Though this was clearly a worthwhile idea, people were not ready to implement such a plan at this time.

Finally, after much discussion, the New York state Legislature decided to look at the possibility of building a canal that would connect the Hudson River and Lake Erie. Surveying was begun in 1808 but nothing further was done about the scheme – the project was dead in the water. Then in 1817 Governor De Witt Clinton took on the task of making sure that the canal got built.

In this We the People title the author helps her readers to understand why the Erie Canal was so important to Americans in the early 1800's, and how the plans for the canal were executed. It was an enormous project, the first of its kind, and for America it brought great change.

Well written and full of annotated period illustrations, this book will give young readers an excellent introduction to the story of the Erie Canal and its historical significance.