The first improvements in transportation in the post-War of 1812 era were locally sponsored toll roads, but the most dramatic difference came with the application of the steam engine to transportation.  The limitations of steamboats depended on existing waterways, a problem that will be somewhat resolved by the construction of canals.  As discussed in Chapter 10, the nation experienced a transportation and communication revolution, and technological advances will permanently change manufacturing.  However, it will be the railroad system that joins the east and west.  Expansion of the rail system linked northeastern cities to the western frontier, and the western territories and states to the eastern seaboard.  However, few lines crossed the Mason-Dixon Line to link the northern and southern economies.

In order to prepare for this discussion, you must first complete the following readings.

  • Review and identify the relevant sections of Chapter 10, and Chapter 15.

After you have completed your readings, please post your responses to only ONE of the following questions:

  1. Identify a major technological invention or innovation of this period that is discussed in either Chapter 10 or Chapter 15, and explain its importance.
  2. In your opinion, did the construction of a railroad system unify, or divide the nation? (You can also argue how it did both.) Explain your position.

respond to a fellow student’s postings 

Student response

Despite the fact that the railroad was built at a period when the country was deeply divided, its completion was a significant factor in the country’s ability to heal after the Civil War. The fact that it made it possible for goods and people to go from coast to coast at previously unheard-of speeds was possibly its greatest feat. The achievement may be considered the greatest of all time. The Transcontinental Railroad was a potent representation of American success. As the nation proceeded to recover after the Civil War, this was crucial. The US had not only developed a network of transportation that allowed travel “from sea to shining sea,” but it had also subdued the environment and geography of the still-wild West. At “Promontory Point, Utah,” railroad workers put the last railroad tie as the nation set off as one, and they sealed the event with a gold spike to mark the accomplishment (Petrusewicz, 2020).

Even though a regular spike later took the place of the ceremonial gold one, the picture of the golden spike remained one of the most recognizable from the nineteenth century. In reality, when tourists destroyed railroad ties in their quest to acquire a piece of history, the railroad was forced to repair them at a pace of one per week. The railroad brought the nation together and allowed for massive scale business. In addition to transporting manufactured goods from “East Coast cities to the West Coast and western food crops and raw materials to East Coast markets,” the railroad facilitated the growth of international trade. By the year 1900, the majority of the country’s railroad infrastructure had been constructed. The construction of railroads allowed for the colonization of the American West, opened up new economic opportunities, stimulated the formation of communities and towns, and, in general, united the country (Michalopoulos & Papaioannou, 2020).