A TRANSPORTATION REVOLUTIONThroughout human history, the land that is New York provided natural waterway access from the Atlantic coast to the interior of the country, making it the contested prize of Colonial wars. After the American Revolution, dramatic improvements were made in its transportation system. The first successful commercial steamship, Robert Fulton’s Clermont, plied the Hudson River in 1807.
Between 1817 and 1825, the state financed and built the Erie Canal. This engineering marvel connected New York City to the Great Lakes and opened the American Midwest to trade. New York quickly became the busiest port in North America, and New Yorkers prospered all along the canal system. Later, New Yorkers built railroads along the canal and made travel even more affordable and efficient.