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Interpreting the Evidence

Driver and Mules on the Erie Canal Tow Path at Lyons, 1910

  • Documents in this Activity:
  • Historical Eras:

    Turn of the Century and WWI (1890 - 1930)

  • Thinking Skill:

    Historical Analysis & Interpretation

  • Grade Level:

    Lower Elementary
    Upper Elementary
    Middle School
    High School
    College University

  • Topics:

    Erie Canal

  • Primary Source Types:


  • Regions:

    Finger Lakes
    New York State

  • Creator:

    NYS Archives Partnership Trust Education Team

  1. Load Driver and Mules on the Erie Canal Tow Path at Lyons, 1910 in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

Document Description
A young adult drives a team of mules on the Erie Canal at Lyons, New York, 1910.
Historical Context
The opening of the Erie Canal in 1825 connected the Great Lakes with the Atlantic Ocean.  The canal was a quicker means of transporting people and goods than carts pulled by animals.  The completion of the canal resulted in an increase in population in the western part of the state.  It also increased the amount of trade for New York City and contributed to the westward expansion of America.

Initially, the railroads were supposed to work in connection with the Erie Canal.  Opened in 1831, the Mohawk-Hudson Railroad made a bypass between Albany and Schenectady.  This was the slowest part of the canal system.  The railroads were also supposed to shorten the length of time that passengers needed to spend on the packet boats.  Over time, other chartered railways began to build lines west to Buffalo.  By 1842, there was a continuous railway line across the state that served the same general route as the Erie Canal.
Essential Question
How does geography and the economy impact the development of new technology?
Check for Understanding
Describe the scene in the photograph and explain the relationship between geography and the development of new technology.
Historical Challenges
What impact did the railroads have on the Erie Canal?
Interdisciplinary Connections
Social Studies, Math, & English Language Arts: Map the railroads and the Erie Canal across New York State. Research the cost to ship wheat by train and by canal. Research how long this shipment would take. Create an advertisement for one of these methods of transportation.