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Interpreting the Evidence

Engraving of "The Lock," 1852

  • Documents in this Activity:
  • Historical Eras:

    Expansion and Reform (1801 - 1861)

  • Thinking Skill:

    Historical Analysis & Interpretation

  • Grade Level:

    Upper Elementary
    Middle School
    High School
    College University

  • Topics:

    Erie Canal

  • Primary Source Types:


  • Regions:

    New York State

  • Creator:

    NYS Archives Partnership Trust Education Team

  1. Load Engraving of "The Lock," Erie Canal, 1852 in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

Document Description
Engraving of "The Lock," showing a packet boat in a lock and a gatekeeper preparing to close the lock gates. A team of horses or mules and their driver wait for the boat to "lock through," while another person secures the boat to a post with rope. Published in Jacob Abbott’s "Marco Paul’s Voyages & Travels on the Erie Canal, 1852."
Historical Context
As the gatekeeper is preparing to close the downstream lock gates, another person is tying the ropes to the bollards.  After the downstream gates are closed, the underwater sluices are opened, and the large valves allow water from the canal above the lock to flow through and fill the lock.  The packet boat begins to rise as the level of water also rises.  When the water has risen to the level in the canal above, the upstream gates are opened, the ropes are reattached to the team of mules, and the packet boat continues on its journey.
Essential Question
How does geography influence the development of technology?
Check for Understanding
Describe the scene in the drawing and explain how the technology was influenced by the geography.
Historical Challenges
Research what happened if the locks failed to work and what repercussions this failure had on industry.
Interdisciplinary Connections
Science & English Language Arts: You work at a lock, and you will not be able to go to work for a day. Write step by step the tasks involved in operating a lock, so your substitute can fill in for the day. Draw a flow chart displaying the steps involved in working a lock.
English Language Arts: After your first day on the job as a lock operator, write a letter home telling your family what your new job is like.