Towards the beginning of the 19th century, the United States had demand for the construction of public works but a lack of domestic engineers to carry out these tasks. Often engineers from Europe had to come to the United States in order to construct public works, such as canals. The construction of the Erie canal would mark a major change in engineering and education in the United States.
Skepticism was prevalent for canals in the United States due to the failures of the previous Santee and Middlesex canals. These canals were constructed slowly, over budget, and lacked quality. Therefore, the idea of constructing a canal 363 miles long was too ambitious.
The oversight of the Erie canal was to be left in the hands of American residents as there was a lack of availability of oversees for engineers. The four men assigned for the task, Benjamin Write, James Geddes, Charles Broadhead, and Nathan S. Roberts, had to learn how to build a canal despite never seeing one. One skill these men did know was surveying. They would each work together to apply their surveying skills to the construction of a canal. As the men who designed the canal had to learn how to construct one on their own, their endeavors have been called the first engineering school in America by several historians.
The engineers of the canal had to solve several issues for the canal to be completed in a timely manner. The eastern part of the canal would be one of the most difficult parts to construct due to more changes in elevation than other sections of the canal. There was also difficulty in building a canal through the wilderness of New York. One way this problem was addressed was by the invention of a new type tree felling device, a stump puller, and a plow that used a sharp plate of iron to cut roots in the path of the canal. Another problem was a steep rise for the canal in the town of Lockport. The town has five locks that raise the canal 60 feet.
The construction of the Erie canal had resulted in a major shift in America. The Midwest now had a link to the eastern states which led to food prices dropping for eastern states and more machinery going to Midwestern states. Also, the Erie canal transformed several parts of New York and the Midwest from a wilderness into inhabited areas. Following the completion and success of the Erie canal, the demand for canals rose. Demand for canals resulted for a larger demand for technical professions in America. Canals have been important for engineering starting in America.
(Word Count 444)
The second article is about the Morrill Act which was first enacted in 1862. The act led to the donation of public land to be used to construct land-grant universities in every state. The act came as a result of the demand for education and scientific pursuit in the United States. Most colleges were established to teach agricultural and mechanical studies, but most expanded to other areas. While the Erie canal marks the start of engineering studies in America, the Morrill Act would expand education by establishing several mechanical schools, including Virginia Tech.
(Word Count 93)