Upstatenycanals Blog Families on the Canal

Families on the Canal

The Erie Canal played a significant role in family life and commerce in 19th century America. Families often traveled and worked together on canal boats, with children growing up on the water and eventually taking over the family business.

Life on a canal boat was a communal experience, with family members working together to operate the vessel and make a living. Children had specific chores and responsibilities that contributed to the boat’s operation. While this provided steady work for families, it also meant that many canal children received little formal education and faced difficult working conditions.

The canal boats served multiple purposes:

Packet boats carried passengers
Line boats transported both passengers and freight
Freight boats focused solely on cargo

These boats traversed the 363-mile canal between Albany and Buffalo, which was completed in 1825. The Erie Canal revolutionized transportation and commerce in the early 19th century, reducing travel times and freight costs significantly. It became a vital route for westward expansion, facilitating the movement of goods, people, and ideas.

The canal’s impact extended beyond transportation. It spurred population growth and economic development along its route, with cities and towns flourishing as centers of trade and industry. The Erie Canal also played a role in social movements, as ideas like abolitionism and women’s suffrage spread along the waterway.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Post


Rochester, NY Welcome to Rochester, NY! Rochester is a city located in western New York, known for its rich history, cultural attractions, and beautiful scenery. Things to do in Rochester: