By Tim McNeese
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Extra resources for American Frontier
During the same years such boats were in use on America’s rivers, some American inventors were busying themselves developing steam-powered crafts. Such a boat was powered by a steam engine and a paddle wheel. Called steamboats, they reinvented river travel in the 19th century. This unique and sleek craft was 150 feet long and 13 feet wide. It drew about two feet of water and had two paddle wheels, built on the boat’s sides. On its first river trip, Fulton’s boat traveled upstream 110 miles in 24 hours!
The road became a popular route into the western interior through 1850. Traffic flowed both east and west on the road, as pioneer families traveled west in increasing numbers, and farmers and western traders hauled their goods to eastern markets. While there were many different types of traffic on the National Road, three types were common—Conestoga wagons, stagecoaches, and packhorse or mule trains. By modern standards, traffic moved slowly on the National Road, as on every frontier land route of the period.
Through the 1840s, New Orleans handled twice the amount of goods that shipped through the port of New York City. These great river vessels, their dual smokestacks belching black smoke, were the standard for shipping, passenger service, and mail delivery—at least until the arrival of a new transportation innovation: the railroad. Review and Write 1. How did the movement of steamboats into the West change the history of the Trans-Mississippi region? 2. What were some of these important changes? 38 The American Frontier Early Railroads P erhaps no other transportation innovation continues to spark the imagination of Americans today than does the railroad.