They relate to the over two-hundred year history of the Erie Canal, lateral canals, maritime history, and waterways in the United States and internationally. Some of the more interesting and unique collections include archival materials from the Brennan Motor Manufacturing Company--a Syracuse Canal-era business--and the Parley Bassett papers.
Parley Bassett was a Syracuse resident for 60 years during Canal days and served as a toll collector on the Canal just prior to the construction of the current Weighlock Building. These collections amount to approximately cubic feet of materials in a great variety of formats, from the period of The geographic scope mainly covers New York State, with the Erie Canal and its lateral canals, but also includes a good deal of information regarding the St.
Lawrence Seaway and Welland Canal in Canada. Wish You Were Here was a lot of fun to put together. The early 20th century was the Golden Age of Postcards, and since postcards were most popular in the rural northeastern United States, Erie Canal postcards are plentiful! The ones that were written on and mailed are the absolute best, because they sum up the writer's life at that exact moment in history—a thought that we might express via social media or a text message today would have been put on a postcard and mailed to a friend or family member.
Even the blank ones often have beautiful or interesting images of Canal days gone by or sights that one can no longer see on the Canal, such as now torn-down Weighlock buildings. The exhibit will be up until early May, and after that, the panels will be available for rent to other interested institutions!
Ashley: Last spring, we received a donation of eight carved wooden canal worker figurines. They were created by Max Schwegler, who was a local artist, and donated to us by his daughter. They weren't finished, and are in varying stages of completion, but I just love the level of detail incorporated into them! It is an unbelievable story and a true one! The broadside claims, "A person 6 feet tall can stand erect in his mouth, between the Monster's jaws.
We have had 25 young ladies and their teacher in his mouth, all at the same time; also seen 12 gentlemen seated in his mouth, enjoying an oyster supper. To this point, we have found New York Heritage to be a great way to share selected items with the public. Both the Museum and the Canal Society collections had these, and prior to this project, they were stored poorly and most of them hadn't been looked at in years.
Many of these are now available for viewing on New York Heritage Digital Collections , and near the end of the project, the Museum received a donation of almost more negatives showing the construction of the current New York State Canal System.
You are here
Work with these negatives was funded in part by the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation. Interested parties may also contact us to request information and images from our collection. Usage policies and fees may be found on our website. Our hope is to continue improving digital access through additional grant funded projects.
Get e-book Erie Canal (Postcard History)
Right now we have several pending applications for funding to create finding aids and online bibliographic records for both ECM and CSNYS items, as well as to support digitization of items. We receive a lot of research requests from students and amateur genealogists, and occasionally we're asked to contribute images or information to projects that will be seen by a wider audience.
Images from our collection were used in an episode of the Travel Channel show Bizarre Foods for a Canal-specific episode last year. The depth and width of the Hudson River explains why the Hudson Valley was settled from New York to Albany and points north so quickly. It was time for the state to grow.
After the canal was built, Rochester and Buffalo saw population explosions of huge proportions. In , Buffalo was a village struggling to become a town, and had almost been wiped out by the British in the War of Before the canal began construction in , Rochester had only built its first frame houses a couple of years before.
The canal was in full operation in , and between and , Rochester saw its population grow from 1, people to 36, Buffalo grew from 2, hardy souls to over 42, in the same time period. Their respective counties also saw huge growth, expanding by percent. The Canal brought not only people, but industry.
Travel and settlement along the Great Lakes region had opened up these states to farmers, mostly immigrants, who soon made the fertile ground the breadbasket of the country. Wheat, flour and grains were being shipped along the Lakes eastward. The goods were shipped down the Mississippi River to New Orleans, a much longer journey, but one of the reasons why that city was also an important and mighty port.
The Erie Canal took much of that business away, and historians have also postulated that the ties between these states and the north were made firmer through this trade, so that when the Civil War erupted, there was not as much dependency on Southern ports, and these states had no problem aligning themselves with the North. That was not the only reason, of course, but certainly an unintended benefit of the canal. It was not only goods moving back and forth, it was people. Immigrants headed for the interior of the country started their journey here, and took the canal to Buffalo to head westward.
Most of these people moved on out, and west.
Before the canal, it took 50 days to reach Lake Erie, in an arduous combination of river and overland travel, and was expensive. With the canal in operation, the journey took less than two weeks, and cost much less. These immigrants spent plenty of money here before they left, adding to the coffers of the city.
Housing and food, for while they were here; plus provisions, dry goods, raw materials and other supplies for their new homes; all could be purchased in the stores and warehouses of New York or Brooklyn. But of course, the greatest profits were made from the goods coming the other way, as the warehouses of Brooklyn and Manhattan were stuffed with the bounty of the American frontier.
In Brooklyn, the Erie Basin, an artificial harbor upon which many of the Red Hook shipyards were built, was constructed in the s. The name was not by chance; the Erie Canal was the lifeblood of the area. By this time, the original Erie Canal had been expanded, with larger and more modern waterways and locks, allowing for more traffic along its route. Although competition with railroads had shortened journeys tremendously, it was still highly cost effective and expeditious for produce and goods to come from the Midwest, along the Great Lakes, and down the canal to market.
The Red Hook shipyards were the terminus of the Erie Canal.
Postcard History Series: Erie Canal – Fairport Main Street Mercantile
Grain, lumber, raw building materials such as Indiana limestone, livestock and produce, and their by-products such as glue and hides were just some of the products that came down the canal and were stored in Brooklyn before being shipped to other parts of the country, overseas, or used in local factories or local building and production.
The iconic warehouses of Red Hook owe much of their successful history to Erie Canal traffic. Many a local fortune was made from these goods, as well as a wealth of jobs for Brooklynites in the form of dock, construction, factory and office workers, managers, warehouse and clearing house workers, and their managers and bosses. By , the Erie Canal went through its final configuration, and was widened, deepened and changed for engine, not mule power.
Some of the original canal was abandoned, and much of it had been greatly expanded and modernized. Much of that is now recreational, and parts of the old, abandoned parts of the canal have been opened up by their localities and restored as tourist attractions, where canal boats can offer a unique vacation experience. In , boats and barges began using the canal system for commercial shipping again, as fuel prices began to rise, making river travel once again cheaper than trucking or air.
One gallon of diesel pulls one ton of cargo 59 miles by truck, miles by train and miles by canal barge.