How much did it cost?
$7,143,000. This is how much it cost to build the Erie Canal. Even today, in 2013, this is A LOT of money. Without the Federal government to back them, New York State was on their own to cover this debt. With the completion of the canal, increased production of goods, and the implementation of tolls along the canal, New York State recouped all of the $7,143,000 within 10 years of it opening. The building of the Erie Canal helped to launch New York State into the forefront of trade and it became a dominant commercial center (Larkin, n.d.).
- In the year 1835 alone New York collected $1.5 million in tolls.
- In 1847 they collected $3.33 million in tolls.
- By the time tolls were abolished in 1882, the total revenue came to $121,461,871 (Volpe, n.d.).
What did it transport?
The Erie Canal mainly transported lumber and farm goods such as flour, wheat, salt, fruits, and vegetables. Prior to the opening of the Erie Canal it cost less to ship goods all the way to England than it did to ship them 30 miles inland, in the same country. Before the canal, fruits and vegetables would spoil on their long trip from the western part of New York to New York City. With the completion of the canal, farmers were able to ship these goods at only a fraction of the cost and at a much faster pace. Before the canal was built, it cost between $90 and $125 per ton of cargo to ship from Buffalo to New York City. Remarkably, with the completion of the canal, that cost dropped to less than $6
per ton and it took only a third of the time to get there. This enabled farmers to ship a lot more of their product at a reduced rate which increased their profits (Volpe, n.d.).
Not only did the Erie Canal ship goods from farmers but it also offered a quicker passage from Western New York to New York City and vice verse.
In order to travel from Lake Erie to New York City before the canal, it took around 50 days and cost around $150. This much faster, much cheaper (the cost as cheap as 1 cent per mile for some boats) route created an explosion of population in New York quadrupled from 125,000 in 1820 to 500,000 in 1850 (Volpe, n.d.).
- In 1849, the Erie Canal shipped 1,580,000 tons of goods in forest, agricultural, and manufacturing products, as well as merchandise and a combination of other products.
- The value of these goods was equal to more than $52 million (Volpe, n.d.).
The economic value of the Erie Canal is immeasurable.
- It allowed New York City to establish a trade position and become one of the world's dominant commercial centers.
- People and products moved West, creating a market for produce in the Midwest.
- Populations boomed.
- People using the canal needed supplies for their trip such as food, places to stay, and equipment which created businesses as well as jobs along the canal route.
- The canal increased land values, provided jobs, decreased costs, and increased production which in turn allowed the population to expand and grow in the "frontier" land of western New York and Pennsylvania.