The Key Players
A Canal Built by Non-Professionals
View the streaming video about this topic, scroll down to see more images and information, or return to the video menu page to choose another topic. There are three ways to enjoy our videos: Play a low resolution version, play a better version by clicking on the Vimeo link below, or purchase our DVD for the best quality of all. Schools can buy a perpetual license to show our complete Classroom Collection (21 videos) for rates starting at $99 per school district (learn more).
If your school prevents playback of Vimeo videos, click here.
The great visionary president Thomas Jefferson was NOT a supporter of New York's plan to build the Erie Canal! Remember that he'd watched his friend and fellow-Virginian George Washington fail in his attempt to canalize the Potomac River. When he heard about the project in 1809 he said:
"Making a canal 350 miles through a wilderness is little short of madness. Perhaps in a hundred years."
The real hero of the Original Erie's construction was New York's Governor Dewitt Clinton. The canal became so closely associated with him that his opponents derisively called the project "Clinton's Ditch", hoping to bring him down when the canal project failed. It backfired on them though, when the canal's overwhelming success propelled the Governor to unparalleled popularity.
"May the God of Heavens and the earth smile most propitiously on the work, and render it subservient to the best interests of the human race."- Gov Dewitt Clinton at the opening ceremony marking the completion of the Erie Canal ahead of schedule in 1825