Building the World

Connection and Innovation


Worker on the Erie Canal, From Library of Congress, at

Linking Lake Erie via the Hudson River to New York City, the Erie Canal changed the economy of the United States. Internal waterways have stimulated advances in culture and exchange dating back to China’s Grand Canal. Many jobs were created; workers flocked to construction sites along the route. They lived together in camps, developing team organizational skills that would characterize American business. Innovation flourished; Erie saw the first hydraulic cement used in the United States. Open for business in 1825, the waterway was an instant success. Before it cost $100 per ton to transport goods over land; now, $10 per ton. A museum dedicated to the Erie Canal is housed in the only existing weighlock building in the United States ( The Erie Canal could be called the Internet of its day: both were connection routes financed by government but developed by the private sector. Entrepreneurial ventures sprang up, soon exceeding initial cost of building the route. How does connection stimulate innovation? What’s beyond the Internet?

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Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G. Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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