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Ohio Canal Era

Harry N. Scheiber

Publication Year: 2012

Ohio Canal Era, a rich analysis of state policies and their impact in directing economic change, is a classic on the subject of the pre–Civil War transportation revolution. This edition contains a new foreword by scholar Lawrence M. Friedman and a bibliographic note by the author. Professor Scheiber explores how Ohio—as a “public enterprise state,” creating state agencies and mobilizing public resources for transport innovation and control—led in the process of economic change before the Civil War. No other historical account of the period provides so full and insightful a portrayal of “law in action.” Scheiber reveals the important roles of American nineteenth- century government in economic policy-making, finance, administration, and entrepreneurial activities in support of economic development. His study is equally important as an economic history. Scheiber provides a full account of waves of technological innovation and of the transformation of Ohio’s commerce, agriculture, and industrialization in an era of hectic economic change. And he tells the intriguing story of how the earliest railroads of the Old Northwest were built and financed, finally confronting the state- owned canal system with a devastating competitive challenge. Amid the current debate surrounding “privatization,” “deregulation,” and the appropriate use of “industrial policy” by government to shape and channel the economy. Scheiber’s landmark study gives vital historical context to issues of privatization and deregulation that we confront in new forms today.  

Published by: Ohio University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. vi-viii

IN THE COURSE of research for this study, I was the beneficiary of the generosity with which American scholars characteristically respond to requests for aid and counsel. Paul Wallace Gates, who directed my graduate studies at Cornell University, provided me with a critique of my doctoral dissertation on Ohio's...


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pp. ix-x


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pp. xi-xii

Maps and Charts

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pp. xiii


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pp. xiv

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pp. xv-xviii

Ohio Canal Era: A Case Study of Government and the Economy, 1820– 1861 (1969) is, in my view, a tremendous achievement. It was, at the time of publication, a signal contribution to economic history; and it was also—or would come to be seen as—a major contribution to socio-legal history, a field in which Harry N. Scheiber...

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pp. xix-xxii

To CHANNEL private energies and to affect the course of economic change, Americans of the early nineteenth century employed the power of government at all levels. In pursuing these purposes, they invoked a great variety of policy devices which ranged from...

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Preface to the 1987 Edition

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pp. xxiii-xxvii

WHEN THIS study of state enterprise and the antebellum economy was first published. there was a growing divergence of views among American scholars in the field of economic history about how to approach their research. Some of them. myself included, regarded it as imperative that studies...

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Bibliographic Note, 1987

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pp. xxvii-xxx

The methodological issues and controversies of the 1970 in American economic history are discussed in Stephen Salsbury. "Economic History Then and Now," Agricultural History 53 (1979). A perceptive analysis and overview~ written when division in the field was nearly at...

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Bibliographic Note, 2012

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pp. xxxi-xxxvi

Ohio’s planning, construction, and operation of a major public transportation system constituted one of antebellum America’s most compelling examples of boldly interventionist state-level public policy, resulting in a far-reaching impact on the national economy as well as on the state’s...

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Part I: The State Enterprise, 1820-1850

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pp. 1-181

IN the summer of 1820 Charles Haines of New York wrote to Governor Ethan Allen Brown of Ohio on a subject of deep concern to Brown and other political leaders in the West: the prospects for construction of an "Ohio canal," which might be...

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Chapter 1: Toward a Canal Policy, 1820-1825

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pp. 7-35

When the 1819 panic first struck, many in Ohio blamed the banks for the crisis, and they were taken by surprise when the depression continued into 1821 and then 1822. But the crucial problem of the West was in fact not banking but transportation...

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Chapter 2: Construction and Finance, 1825-1833

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pp. 36-60

ENACTMENT of the February 1825 canal law was a political triumph, but formidable obstacles to the project's success lay ahead, Chief among these was the urgent problem of financing, The canal commission had received assurances and encouragement...

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Chapter 3: Administration of the Enterprise, 1825-1833

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pp. 61-87

SUCCESSFUL canal construction had resulted not only from an infusion of funds from outside Ohio and the availability of a relevant technology: it had also required competent leadership and effective organization. The essential basis of success, Henry...

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Chapter 4: Egalitarian Ideals and Pressure for Expansion, 1825-1838

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pp. 88-119

When the canal program of 1825 was undertaken, it was generally agreed in Ohio that the first canals were an experiment in public enterprise. If this venture met with success, then expansion of the public works would follow: the state's...

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Chapter 5: The Public Works and Mixed Enterprise, 1836-1845

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pp. 120-139

When the legislature approved the expanded program's first projects in 1836, state canal officials believed that construction would go forward quickly, and with no financial obstacles, for the national economy was in the midst of a boom...

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Chapter 6: Financing Expansion, 1836-1845

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pp. 140-163

To say that financing Ohio's internal improvements after 1836 was something of a miracle does not exaggerate much. For during 1836-45 the state built new canal lines costing ten million dollars, spent another three million dollars on...

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Chapter 7: Administration: Change and Adjustment, 1833-1850

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pp. 164-181

MICHEL CHEVALIER, the perceptive French student of the American scene, traveling in the west in the 1830's, regarded the Ohio canal enterprise as one of the chief wonders of the New World. To the European mind, he wrote, it was...

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Part II: The Course of Economic Change, 1820-1851

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pp. 183-268

THE promoters of the 1825 canal policy and of expansion in the 1830's had predicted momentous economic effects from the construction of new transportation facilities. Within Ohio, they believed, land values would rise as new settlement...

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Chapter 8: The Canals in the Economy, 1820-1840

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pp. 187-211

THE first impact of the canals upon the Ohio economy occurred even before construction had begun. In districts that expected to benefit from the new waterways, a climate of optimism took hold, while in localities that would be by-passed there...

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Chapter 9: The Transportation Revolution: Second Phase, 1840-1851

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pp. 212-246

THE 1840's marked a distinct second phase in America's Transportation Revolution--that series of technological innovations and waves of transport investment which forged an integrated national economy prior to 1860. The first phase began...

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Chapter 10: State Rate-Making and Market Allocation, 1827-1851

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pp. 247-268

THE early canal advocates had been thoroughgoing mercantilists both in their objectives and in their advocacy of an active role for the state in the economy. They had sought to persuade the legislature and the public that Ohio was a commonwealth...

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Part III: Beginning of the Railroad Age: To 1861

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pp. 269-368

Canal-digging had scarcely begun in Ohio when the first agitation for railroads commenced. Experiments in Great Britain had aroused a lively interest On this side of the Atlantic in the railroad as an alternative to canals. and by the early 1830's...

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Chapter 11: Competition and Response: The Ohio Railroads, 1826-1861

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pp. 275-317

The debate over railroad policy in Ohio began in early 1826, only a few months after initiation of the first canal program.1 The first public call for railroad construction was sounded by James Kilbourne, a prominent politician and engineer who...

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Chapter 12: Transportation and Economic Change, 1850-1860

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pp. 318-352

THE 1850's were years of swift growth and sweeping structural change in the American national economy. Impetus was given to growth by the opening of California's mining fields, by surges in foreign demand for American exports, by reorganization and quickened...

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Chapter 13: Conclusion

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pp. 353-368

THE preceding chapters have explored the manifold dimensions of public policy in one state, as men of the early nineteenth century grappled with the problem of providing themselves with transportation facilities essential to economic growth. But...

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Appendix 1: The Sources of Capital: Foreign and Domestic Investment in Ohio State Bonds, 1825-1840

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pp. 371-379

DURING the period of canal construction in Ohio, from 1825 to 1845, the state was one of the leading public authorities borrowing in American and foreign money markets. During 1815-34. an estimated $41.2 million was expended by American...

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Appendix 2: Tolls on the Ohio Canals

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pp. 380-386

Given in the tables of this appendix are the schedules of tolls adopted by the canal commission and its successor agency, the board of public works. In her index to economic materials in documents of the American states, Adelaide Hasse asserts that...

Appendix 3: Tonnage of Canal Commerce, 1850-1860

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pp. 387-390

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Appendix 4: A Note on the Problem of Estimating "Indirect Returns"

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pp. 391-397

One of the principal arguments of canal promoters in the nineteenth century-·-as it is today a major argument in the rhetoric of highway and airport promoters - was that transport facilities generate "indirect benefits"; and hence the returns they might...

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pp. 398-422

THE unusually rich archival collections of Ohio supported the emphasis in this book on administrative aspects of canal construction, financing, and management. Abundant documentation of all the major decisions and operations of the state...


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pp. 423-430

E-ISBN-13: 9780821444030

Publication Year: 2012