A Long Haul: The Story of the NYS Barge Canal - Purple Mountain Press


by Michele A. McFee

From the introduction:

"The New York State Barge Canal System has struggled with an identity crises its whole life. Not all New Yorkers wanted it. Once built, there was talk of giving it away. Now, people are not sure why it still exists. It is so long that few have had the opportunity to appreciate all its wonderful sites. It has been around so long that few can remember what is important about it.

The Barge Canal is the 1918 improvement to the New York canal system designed to allow for 3,000-ton barges--nearly a tenfold increase over what had been a normal load before it was built. Despite the lack of interest of many New Yorkers, the improvement came from what an observer at the time called `the insistent and persistent cry for cheaper rates, quicker time and increased facilities for that tide of traffic.' This cry for enlargement had been heard throughout the life of the very successful Erie Canal and had already led to several improvement--first resulting in the Enlarged Erie Canal, which nearly doubled its 1825 `Clinton's Ditch' dimensions. At the turn of the century, though, demand came for an even more dramatic change.... The Barge Canal is as much a `modernization' of the original canal as it was an `enlargement.' Progressive engineering and construction methods allowed it to succeed well into the twentieth century where the old canal would have come up lacking."

"Interests will be piqued by sections dealing with daily life on the canal, shippers, tugboat captains and operators, and commodities that once were commonplace. You will be drawn into this work as inexorably as the upstream current created when filling a lock. And you will find yourself wanting more, waiting with anticipation for what's `around the next bend,' as though you were a barge canal captain piloting for the first time your own vessel and tow." --Thomas X. Grasso, President, Canal Society of NYS

Michele McFee, an archival assistant at Binghamton University and a director of the Canal Society of New York State. She is the author of Limestone Locks and Overgrowth: The Rise and Descent of the Chenango Canal, now out of print but available as copies returned by bookstores.

221 pages, illustrated, 8.5 x 11, index, 1998
$25.00 paperback--A Purple Mountain Press original

Copyright © 1998 Purple Mountain Press. All rights reserved.