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Interpreting the Evidence

Erie Canal Locks at Lockport, Horses and Mules on the Towpath, c. 1890s

  • 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:


  • Primary Source Types:


  • Regions:

    Western New York
    New York State

  • Creator:

    NYS Archives Partnership Trust Education Team

  1. Load Erie Canal Locks at Lockport, Horses and Mules on the Towpath, c. 1890s in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

Document Description
Horses and mules on the towpath at the Erie Canal locks at Lockport, c. 1890s.
Historical Context
This lock runs through the city of Lockport, New York, and enables boats to continue up the Erie Canal to Lake Erie.  Ground was broken in Rome, New York, in 1817 to commence the building of the Erie Canal, which was opened in 1825.

A lock is an enclosure with a gate at each end that is used to raise or lower boats from one water level to another on a river or canal.  A boat enters a lock through one gate.  The gate is then closed, and the water level in the lock rises or lowers until it is equal to the water level on the opposite side.  The gate on the opposite side opens, and the boat can continue on its journey. 

Essential Question
How does geography impact technology?
Check for Understanding
Describe the scene in the photograph and explain how the geography influenced the development of this technology.
Historical Challenges
Research the health concerns that developed while the canal was being built.
Interdisciplinary Connections
Math: Determine the distance in miles between Lockport and Albany. Then calculate how much time it would take to drive the distance if you were traveling sixty miles an hour.
Science: Research which simple machine was used to pull the boats along the canal.