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Webisode 4: Wake up, America
Introduction Segment 1 Segment 2 Segment 3 Segment 4 Segment 5 Segment 6 Segment 7

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Robert Fulton
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Before the canal was opened, in 1825, it cost $100 a ton and took two weeks to ship grain from Buffalo to New York. By the 1830s it cost just $8 a ton and took only three-and-a-half days. Immigrants climbed on barges and headed west to build homes and lives See It Now - The Erie Canal in Rochester. New towns got built along the canal's edge. And, in good part because of canal traffic, New York became the nation's largest city.

Canals are easy to navigate—they have no current to resist. But rivers are a different tale. You can float down a stream, but how do you go upriver against the current? Towards the end of the eighteenth century, several people figured out that steam—from boiling water—can not only blow the lid off a teapot, it can push a boat. The best steamboats in America were built by an artist and inventor named Robert FultonSee It Now - Robert Fulton. In 1807, Fulton's steamboat, the Clermont, chugged 150 miles up the Hudson River, from New York to Albany—against the current—in an astonishing thirty-two hours See It Now - A Steamboat.

Could steam power be used on land too? In 1830, the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad opened thirteen miles of track. The railroad cars were pulled by horses See It Now - The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. Peter Cooper, a Baltimore inventor, See It Now - Peter Cooper had earlier said he could put a steam engine on the tracks. In 1829 he built a small locomotive he named Tom Thumb, and invited the railroad directors for a ride See It Now - Peter Cooper's Tom Thumb. Cooper wrote: Hear It Now - Peter Cooper "We started—six on the engine, and thirty-six on the car. It was a great occasion. We made the passage to Ellicott's Mills in an hour and twelve minutes Check The Source - Horsepower Meets Steampower."

Trains were the future. Canals froze in winter, but railroads could be used year-round. The great English writer Charles Dickens came to America and took a train ride. He wrote: Hear It Now - Charles Dickens"On, on, on tears the mad dragon of an engine with its train of cars; scattering in all directions a shower of burning sparks from its wood fire; screeching, hissing, yelling, panting; until at last the thirsty monster stops beneath a covered way to drink and you have time to breathe again."


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Did You Know?
George Washington believed that canals were the wave of the future. He invested in the Potomac Canal system (near Washington D.C.) and in the Kanahwa Canal, which was never actually completed.


Did you know that Freedom is adapted from the award-winning Oxford University Press multi-volume book series, A History of US by Joy Hakim?



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