Clinton’s Big Ditch in New York

Presentation By: Julia and Abbie

Section Summary

This sections starts on page 312 of the American Pageant. "Clinton's Big Ditch in New York" focuses on how Governor Dewitt Clinton lead to the construction of the Erie Canal. This was known as "Clinton's Big Ditch" or "the Governor's Gutter". The building of the canal began in 1817 and concluded in 1825. The 363 mile canal stretched from Buffalo, on Lake Erie, to the Hudson River and onwards to the New York harbor. Towards the end of the section the American Pageant begins to tell how the economic success of the canal lead to other political and financial breakthroughs. For example, many cities and towns popped up along the canal and the prices of goods dropped significantly.

Governor Dewitt Clinton

DeWitt Clinton was the sixth Governor of New York and he was also a United States senator, he is known for his involvement in the construction of the Erie Canal. In fact, Clinton is referred to as the “Father of the Erie Canal.” Clinton’s project was a dream come true for New York Americans. It decreased the cost of shipping tremendously. A ton of grain from Buffalo to New York dropped from $100 to $5! It also cut the transit time significantly. This widened America’s economy and industry skyrocketed.

Primary Source

The reason we chose this as our primary source is because it depicts Governor DeWitt Clinton “merging” the waters of Lake Erie and the Atlantic. Governor Clinton was largely responsible for the construction of the Erie Canal. The creation of the Erie Canal led to cheaper, faster shipping, and a strong continental market economy.


Steamboats contributed to all of the following except...

  1. the growth and development of cities
  2. cheaper and faster shipping
  3. regional separation
  4. a drastic changing in the economy
  5. stimulated westward development

The Erie Canal contributed to the Westward expansion for all of the following except...

  1. cheaper shipping costs
  2. greater value in land along canal
  3. migration from the West to the East
  4. development of factories
  5. continental economy

Citations: Kennedy, David M., Lizabeth Cohen, and Thomas A. Bailey. The American Pageant: A History of the Republic. 12th ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2001.

Duvall, Robert. Fifteen Miles on the Erie Canal. 2013. Photograph. lensofhistory.comWeb. 29 Oct 2013. <>.

"DeWitt Clinton - Erie Canal." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 20 Oct. 2013. Web. 29 Oct. 2013. <>.

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