Why did Governor Dewitt Clinton build a giant ditch across New York state? To get to the other side.

From the time the first shovel went into the ground in 1817, critics blasted the Erie Canal project, dubbing it Clinton’s Ditch. But it would go down in history as an engineering marvel. When finished, it stretched three hundred and sixty three miles across New York, from : (lyrics “Albany to Buffalo”)

This is Low Bridge! Everybody Down, sung by Edward Meeker in a wax cylinder recording from 1913.

The Canal forever changed shipping in the Northeast, cutting transportation costs a whopping ninety percent. It also helped open a steady trade route with the Midwest, turning a seed of a downstate port town into the Big Apple.

Mules like Old Sal were the early stars of the canal system, but steam powered barges rendered them obsolete by the end of the 19th century.