Friday, July 5, 2013

Celebrate the Erie Canal in July

This postcard image of Dock Street along the Erie Canal in Schenectady, ca. 1910, illustrates the canal as a site of commerce and industry, as well as pleasure. Image from Grems-Doolittle Library Postcard collection. 

On July 4, 1817, construction began on the original Erie Canal at Rome, New York. The construction of the canal was an extraordinary feat of engineering as well as state-sponsored economic development, and it had a great impact on trade, transportation, and the development of cities and rural communities that ran along its route from Albany to Buffalo. The Grems-Doolittle Library has recently compiled a guide to sources about the Erie Canal in our Library that includes books, photographs, oral histories, original documents, and other materials. The research guide can be found by clicking this link. Come in and visit us to find out more! We've also included a few Erie Canal-related tidbits below for you to enjoy.

Erie Canal enthusiasts might also want to check out a new exhibit at our Mabee Farm Historic Site in Rotterdam Junction, in the Nilsen Dutch Barn. The exhibit, The Erie Impact: Changing Agriculture in the Mohawk River Valley, highlights the changes that occurred on farms along the Mohawk after the construction of the canal. The Mabees and their neighbors shifted from cash crops like corn and wheat to specialized products like dairy, orchard fruits, and vegetables. This is a chance to see some of the wonderful agricultural and cooking tools found in the Mabee Farm collection.

The history of the Erie Canal also comes alive on July 20, 2013 at the Mabee Farm Historic Site with a program "After Erie: The Impact of the Erie Canal on Mohawk Valley Agriculture." This family-friendly event will feature hands-on activities and exhibits highlighting the changes the Mabee Farm and its neighbors along the Mohawk River underwent because of the construction of the Erie Canal. Focusing in on broomcorn, hops, the orchard, and the vegetable garden, visitors will have the chance to see if they have the skills to be an 18th Century farmer, brewer, broom maker, or cook.

If you have any questions about this upcoming event or the exhibit, please contact our Assistant Curator / Educator, Jenna Peterson, at or by phone at 518-887-5073, ext. 104.

Ice-skaters enjoy the frozen Erie Canal in Schenectady, just south of State Street, circa 1910.  Photograph from Grems-Doolittle Library Photograph Collection. 

Erie Canal weigh master's bill dated June 20, 1879. It was issued by Thomas Riley, weigh master at the West Troy weigh lock, for the boat John W. Hall of Whitehall. At that time, boats on the canal were weighed and a toll charged according to their weight. From Grems-Doolittle Library Documents Collection. 

Picture postcard of the Erie Canal through Rotterdam. From Grems-Doolittle Library Postcard Collection. 

The enlargement of the Erie Canal was necessary to accommodate canal traffic, but not everyone was happy with the process. This note from the Mabee Family Papers (M-LM-43) estimates damage to the property of Simon and Sarah Mabee in Rotterdam Junction due to the enlargement of the canal at $150.00. The damage to the property is identified as damage due to riding over the soil and the destruction of fences. 

Travelers on board the Kittie West, an excursion boat that transported passengers between Schenectady, Rexford, and Vischer Ferry. Photograph from Grems-Doolittle Library. 

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