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Chronological Reasoning and Causation

Does a canal only carry things you see?

  • Documents in this Activity:
  • Historical Eras:

    Expansion and Reform (1801 - 1861)

  • Thinking Skill:

    Historical Analysis & Interpretation

  • Grade Level:

    Middle School

  • Topics:

    Erie Canal

  • Primary Source Types:


  • Regions:

    Western New York
    Finger Lakes
    Central New York
    Capital District
    New York State
    United States

  • Creator:

    NYS Archives Partnership Trust Education Team

  1. Load Broadside. Mass Meeting in Canastota on May 7, 1851 in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

Driven by political and economic motives, the United States expanded its physical boundaries to the Pacific Ocean between 1800 and 1860. This settlement displaced Native Americans as the frontier was pushed westward. Westward expansion provided opportunities for some groups while harming others. 


Students will examine the Erie Canal as a gateway to westward expansion that resulted in economic growth in New York State, economic opportunities for Irish immigrants working on its construction, and its use by religious groups, such as the Mormons, to move westward.