The artificial river

Stretching miles, 40 feet wide and only four feet deep, the Erie Canal allowed citizens to populate places that some never dreamed of.

The artificial river

Laurence Malone The Artificial River: The Erie Canal and the Paradox of Progress, Hill and Wang, We forget how our grandest creations alter our perceptions of the world when they become "second nature. Carol Sheriff's The Artificial River takes a fresh look at this remarkable human achievement in ways that "do not fit neatly into a single established body of historical literature.

Having sifted through scores of personal reflections, Sheriff renders a richly textured account of the changing social fabric of American life between the War of and the Civil War through the lens of the Erie Canal.

The narrative intertwines time and space in a dimensional approach to Erie Canal history, and sheds new light on its engineering, construction and workings, all of which helped recast American ideals of progress and liberty.

A salient episode leads off the book: Remarkably, fresh oysters from Long Island were available in the hinterlands of western New York. But the ways in which the Canal altered perspectives go deeper than oysters in a masterful discussion of the political economic climate when it was conceived, with Hamiltonians disposed to expanding over "time" and Jeffersonians over "space.

It is an understatement to say that the work is well researched--fully one-fourth of the book consists of notes and supporting documentation.

But this thoroughness does not detract from the pleasurable read of six well-linked chapters.

The Artificial River: The Erie Canal and the Paradox of Progress, by Carol Sheriff

The first three stress the spatial dimensions of the Canal, and how it affected the nascent optimism and idealism of a Republic and a state bent on shaping a notion of progress that melded lofty ambitions with political and fiscal realities.

The last three emphasize time in how the Canal altered the lives of those who encountered it. Out of the painstaking task of reading the Papers of the New York State Canal Board, which recorded the cases of close to ten thousand New Yorkers, is woven a fascinating discussion of property rights issues.

The artificial river

The ramifications of how the Canal physically divided holdings, inconvenienced those who lived alongside, and gave new meaning to trespassing to those who sought to cross it, are made known.

We also revisit more familiar scenes of plotting for prime real estate and the development of Lockport, the settlement of three families in that four years later became a town of three thousand.

For better and worse, the Erie Canal changed the lives of those who traveled it, depended on it, or had it forced upon them. The book so thoroughly cultivates an appreciation for personal transformation that the reader experiences those perceptions across the ranks of society.

The Canal redefined the meaning of work and created new forms of diversion.

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Construction workers were deployed in teams in an era when labor was normally performed in solitude. Travelers, migrants and honeymooners heading to Niagra Falls shared cramped quarters and an adventure which put them in close contact with fellow sojourners and nature.

But those who created the Canal and those who used it were joined by the ribald manners of lock operators and boat hands who too often frequented the grog houses that sprung up along its banks. Detailed descriptions of the young boys who served as tow path drivers break sad new ground as an early American example of children who labored under deplorable conditions.

Dreary images of canal workers effectively offset the ideal that optimism and triumph were the order of the Canal, and also provide a backdrop to the religious reform movements that swept through the Canal corridor.

Since there is scant an American historian not interested in the Erie Canal, we would be well served to explore Carol Sheriff's personalized approach to its history.

Nor would any harm come if her research techniques were to become "second nature. His latest book, Opening the West:The Artificial River: The Erie Canal and the Paradox of Progress, by Sheriff, Carol published by Hill and Wang () by aa.

Paperback. $ $ 15 Only 3 left in stock - order soon. More Buying Choices. $ (48 used & new offers). The Artificial River reveals the human dimension of the story of the Erie Canal.

The artificial river

Carol Sheriff's extensive, innovative archival research shows the varied responses of ordinary people-farmers, businessmen, government officials, tourists, workers-to this major environmental, social, and cultural transformation in the early life of the Republic/5(4). In short, I would highly recommend The Artificial River to students and scholars alike.

Students in American economic history courses should gain by reading this volume; transportation scholars should gain by examining the cultural history of the period as shown in this regional study. The Artificial River: The Erie Canal and the Paradox of Progress On October 26, , the largest American-made canal was finished.

Stretching miles, 40 feet wide and only four feet deep, the Erie Canal allowed citizens to /5(1). The Artificial River: The Erie Canal and the Paradox of Progress On October 26, , the largest American-made canal was finished.

Stretching miles, 40 feet wide and only four feet deep, the Erie Canal allowed citizens to populate places that some never dreamed of/5(1). The Artificial River, which won the New York State Historical Association Manuscript Award for , is, like the real thing, a remarkable achievement.

Since there is scant an American historian not interested in the Erie Canal, we would be well served to explore Carol Sheriff's personalized approach to its history.

THE ARTIFICIAL RIVER by Carol Sheriff | Kirkus Reviews