Dubuque County Historical Society Images

The Builders

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De Witt Clinton

De Witt Clinton, born in New York in 1769, played a pivotal role in the development of internal transportation in the United States during the early 1800's. Clinton was dedicated to the idea of building a canal across New York state which would link the Atlantic Coast with Lake Erie and the Great Lakes, and he became principle sponsor of the Erie Canal.

Elected governor in 1817, Clinton induced the New York State Legislature to authorize the expenditure of $7 million for construction of a 40 foot wide, 4 foot deep, 363 mile long canal.

In October, 1825, "Clinton's Ditch" was opened to traffic. Overnight, the Erie Canal became the most important trade route with the West, and New York spurted into an era of unparalleled growth - assuring its position as the major East Coast port. The cost of the Erie Canal was recouped in only seven years time, and continued to be an important trade artery for many years. The success of this engineering marvel revolutionized water transportation in the U.S. and provided the spark which set off a nation-wide craze of canal building.

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