Transportation Improvements

What were the most important improvements in transportation during the first half of the nineteenth century?

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Explain how these changes were important to the growth of the United States both physically and economically.

During the first half of the 19th century, there were dramatic changes that were taking place in a number of different countries around the world. This would have an effect upon transportation, as the technological changes were having an impact upon daily life. The most significant improvements include: the development of railroads, canals and roads. Railroads were a major improvement in transportation, as the steam engine became the first machine that could operate under its own power. This would have an impact upon the way various goods were transported and it allowed for commerce to improve, in many areas that were once considered to be uninhabitable (due to vast distances). Over the course of time, this would contribute to the growth of the United States economically, by allowing key industries to develop in many Northern areas of the country. At the same time, it would help to fuel the continuing westward expansion that was taking place. When you put these two factors together, they are signifying how the railroad would help to support these changes, by providing a way of transporting various goods across vast distances (over short periods of time). (“Transportation in the 19th Century,” 2009)

Canals would have an effect upon the U.S., by providing a way that different goods can be transported over distances (that maybe in accessible to roads and rail lines). Through the steamship, commerce increased among a number of different inland areas. The way that this was accomplished was using canals that were interconnected with rivers. This would help to increase trade, by providing businesses with an alternative form of transporting various goods to market (which would increase economic growth). At the same time, it would help to support the westward expansion of the country, by providing a way to go to areas that may not be accessible to railroads (such as: locations west of the Mississippi River). This is important, because it showing how the use of various canals would play a part in helping to: support the transportation system and economic growth of the country during the early 19th century. (“Transportation in the 19th Century,” 2009)

Roads would have a major impact upon how quickly various regions would develop from: areas of wilderness into cities and states. This is because, the use of roads served as a way of connecting the different cities and other parts of the country together. At which point, both individuals and businesses could use them, to support their transportation needs as well improve commerce. This was important to the economic growth of the United States, by providing everyone with an alternative choice in: transporting themselves or different merchandise (from point a to point b). As this increased the number of choices that were available, which kept the underlying costs low. At the same time, the expansion of different roads would mean, that numerous areas of the country that were once in accessible were open to new settlers. This fueled the continuing westward expansion, by providing these people with better access to land and various raw materials. At which point, they could use them to: improve their businesses, build communities and develop the area. These different elements are important, because they are showing how roads would play a dramatic role, in helping to directly connect different areas of the country together (which supported the economic and physical expansion that was occurring). (“Transportation in the 19th Century,” 2009)

When you step back and look at all three changes that have taken place, it is clear that they would work in conjunction with one another to: support the continuous economic and vast expansion of the United States during the early 19th century. This is because they would provide increased access, to areas that were once in hospitable (due to vast distances and various terrain / geographic challenges). Once this occurred, it means that the country would see continued economic and physical expansion.


Transportation in the 19th Century. (2009). Study World. Retrieved from: