Skip to content
Interpreting the Evidence

Public Persuasion: Vote No! Erie Canal Broadside

  • Documents in this Activity:
  • Historical Eras:

    Turn of the Century and WWI (1890 - 1930)

  • Thinking Skill:

    Historical Analysis & Interpretation

  • Grade Level:

    Upper Elementary
    Middle School
    High School

  • Topics:

    Erie Canal

  • Primary Source Types:


  • Regions:

    Southern Tier
    New York State

  • Creator:

    NYS Archives Partnership Trust Education Team

  1. Load Barge Canal Broadside "Vote No", Binghamton, 1903 in Main Image Viewer

Suggested Teaching Instructions

Topics: Erie Canal improvements, Persuasion, Public Opinion

Skills: Inference, Map skills- scale, Persuasive writing, Fact/Opinion

This broadside encourages the people of Binghamton, NY to vote no to expanding the Erie Canal to a Barge Canal. The state would invest over $100 million dollars to enlarge the canal so larger barges could utilize the canal for shipping and transport. Binghamton, NY is not located on or near the canal, so it seems the citizens were not willing to support spending tax dollars on an investment that they would not benefit from.  This is a great example of how geography influences politics.

​​​​​​ ​​Historical Context: By the end of the 19th century, the Erie Canal and waterways like it were fast becoming obsolete as freight and passenger travel became tied to expanding railroads. Despite numerous improvement efforts throughout the 1800s, canals were in jeopardy of going the way of the horse and buggy. Powerful engine driven locomotives and vehicles could move heavier freight greater distances more efficiently and for less expense. Starting in 1905, New York State sought to revitalize canal travel by investing over $100 million for expanding and improving the old Erie Canal line and subsequent canal systems to allow greater barges to travel greater distances throughout the state. Some localities did not approve of the plan, citing the costs not worth the benefits. In the end, proponents of expanding commercial opportunities across New York won out, the vote was approved, and the modern canal system we know across New York even to the current day was begun.

Essential Questions: How were broadsides used historically to make an argument? How does geography influence politics?

Document Analysis:
1. Review the definition and historical use of broadsides
Historically broadsides were a commonly used form of advertising, news, announcements, and political printing.
2. Explain to the class that you are handing out a typical broadside and you want them to write a few initial thoughts before doing anything else
3. Guide the students by asking the following questions and have them respond:
a. Does the poster capture your attention? Why or why not?
b. Where does your eye go first? Second? Next? [go as far as you want]
c.  Why? What draws your eye to that spot?
d.  Focusing now on all aspects of the poster does it make sense to you?
e.  Would this impact your decision to support the canal project or not?

Vote No Broadside Document Analysis
1.      What is the main message of the poster?
2.      Why does the poster encourage the citizens of Binghamton to vote no?
3.      If this passes how will the people of Binghamton be impacted?
4.       Locate Binghamton on an NYS map, how far is the city from the closest part of the Erie Canal?
5.      Why do you think Binghamton residents might not be in support of this investment?
6.      What types of propaganda techniques are evident on the broadside?

Have the students list four facts about the Erie Canal and two opinions of the people of Binghamton based on the broadside.

Check for Understanding: Write a newspaper article for the Binghamton Press supporting the VOTE NO campaign.  Utilize 4 historical facts by citing evidence from the document and the discussion. Use your author’s craft to persuade the public. Incorporate the facts identified during your document analysis.