erie canal at hudson river albany 1824 loc

"Surely the water of this canal must be the most fertilizing of all fluids..."

erie canal at hudson river albany 1824

This illustration of the Erie Canal's intersection with the Hudson River at Albany is clipped from from an 1824 document -- "A geological and agricultural survey of the district adjoining the Erie canal in the state of New York" -- via the Library of Congress. (Here's a larger version.) The canal entered the Hudson River at a spot in Albany near where the Livingston Ave Bridge is now.

"I was inclined to be poetical about the Grand Canal," wrote Nathaniel Hawthorne.

It was this week 190 years ago that the Erie Canal was officially completed. The waterway played a key role in the history not just of the Albany area, where it connected with the Hudson, but all along its path from here to Buffalo.

Anyway, the anniversary of the opening prompted us to poke around a bit and we came across this 1835 account of traveling canal by packet boat, written by Nathaniel Hawthorne for New England Magazine. A clip from the beginning:

In my imagination De Witt Clinton was an enchanter, who had waved his magic wand from the Hudson to Lake Erie and united them by a watery highway, crowded with the commerce of two worlds,till then inaccessible to each other. This simple and mighty conception had conferred inestimable value on spots which Nature seemed to have thrown carelessly into the great body of the earth, without foreseeing that they could ever attain importance. I pictured the surprise of the sleepy Dutchmen when the new river first glittered by their doors, bringing them hard cash or foreign commodities in exchange for their hitherto unmarketable produce. Surely the water of this canal must be the most fertilizing of all fluids; for it causes towns, with their masses of brick and stone, their churches and theatres, their business and hubbub, their luxury and refinement, their gay dames and polished citizens, to spring up, till in time the wondrous stream may flow between two continuous lines of buildings, through one thronged street, from Buffalo to Albany.

Hawthorne sets out to travel the entire length of the canal, but ends up getting left behind during the night outside Syracuse at an eerie, forested scene. (Because Hawthorne.)

But that's not before he flirts with a Swiss woman, notes the "overpowering tedium" of the journey, laughs at a guy who gets brained by a bridge, and falls out of his bunk.

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