Getting There – Boorstin

Overtime throughout history, the need to always move was at the forefront of Americans minds. Americans built wagons, steamboats, and railroads without knowing the impact that it would make for public transportation for generations to come. When wagons were first introduced to the west, they were mainly only used by transients and the wagons used showed the importance of light construction, speed, and freedom of movement. Slowly, wagons began to be used by westward travelers as well instead of riding on the backs of horses and mules.

A horse and wagon, 1911.

Western transportation grew fast and introduced steamboats and steamboat racing. As early as 1787, John Fitch had made the first vessel moved by the power of the stream on the waters of the United States. It was a steamboat that could make a trip from New York to Albany in thirty-two hours. This was an extraordinary feat for the future of modern transportation and began a whole new exploration for steamboats and the speed that they could be. In the West, the economy of construction and speed had long governed the design of riverboats. Before this advancement most downstream transportation, there were flatboats that varied in size and shape. But by the 1820s, when steamboats were common on western waters, they were powered by engines built in the West.

The passion for speed was also used with the invention of the railroad. While steamboats followed routes laid out by nature, railroads were the routes. American railroads were constructed in the quickest way, and with little regard to safety, comfort, or durability. Over time, railroads were able to get constructed to be safer and used by Americans to travel. With the addition of railroads, locomotives began to get introduced. Locomotives were specifically designed for American roads. They would have to be flexible and light, able to run on steep grades, sharp curves, and light wooden trestles. Technical changes were made to locomotives over time and

 

 opened up to both English and American designs.

 

The article states that the technology of haste expressed a special attitude to time. They indicated that America was potentially the land of the future. American technology was actually found to be a technology of the present, shaped by hast, by the scarcity of craftsmanship, of capital, and raw materials. By building rapidly and flimsily, Americans refused hostages to the future and believed in the faith that things would change for the better in the future.

http://www.historyworld.net/wrldhis/PlainTextHistories.asp?historyid=ab79

https://www.sam.usace.army.mil/Portals/46/docs/recreation/OP-CO/montgomery/pdfs/5thand6th/ahistoryofsteamboats.pdf

http://www.ushistory.org/us/25b.asp

 

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