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John Eddy's 1818 map of the Adirondack/North Country region.  Photo: Adirondack Museum
John Eddy's 1818 map of the Adirondack/North Country region. Photo: Adirondack Museum

Adirondack Attic: an 1818 map of the North Country

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Andy Flynn visits the Adirondack Museum for a closer look at an early 19th century map of the region.

Published in 1818, the map was divided into four sections, including one for the Adirondack North Country region. Governor DeWitt Clinton commissioned state Geographer John Eddy to make the map in order to sketch out the proposed route of the Erie Canal between Lake Erie and the Hudson River. Clinton was largely responsible for the canal, which opened in 1825.

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Reported by

Andy Flynn
Adirondack Correspondent

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Canals were very important to NY commerce in the 1800s. The opening of the Erie canal reduced freight rates by a factor of 10, said Adirondack Museum librarian Jerry Pepper.

There was a lot of competition for shipping between the east coast and Chicago, with several railroads and steamship lines available. Pepper said it was often cheaper to ship something from Chicago to New York City than from Syracuse to New York City, because there was only a single way to ship to and from Syracuse, whereas there were multiple routes to and from Chicago.

It was substantially cheaper to ship items by water than by railroad. For things that could take ten days or more, water transport made better sense. However, the canal needed constant replenishment of water because the Lake Erie end was much high than the New York City end. Every time a boat was locked through the canal system it lost water downstream to the ocean. A water supply system was needed, and the Adirondack watershed became that supply.

As a result the Forest Preserve was established, largely because New York City commercial groups pushed for it. According to Pepper, these groups wanted to keep the canals as an option in order to keep railroad cost down. The need for canal water became the basis of support for the preservation of the Adirondacks.

The 1818 map, produced seven years before the canal opened, shows the entire state of New York. Pepper believes it was done like this because the state financed both the canal project and the map. Showing what the whole project looked like through the entire state would help to get all regions of the state behind the idea, he said.

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