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This is the title page illustration from Marco Paul's Voyages & Travels, Erie Canal. Published in 1852, Jacob Abbott's book was a classic example of nineteenth-century juvenile literature, which taught young people a range of topics from economics to geography to culture and moral character, within an adventure framework. Courtesy of Harvard University via HathiTrust.

Although it is a fictional account of an adventure on the Erie Canal, Marco Paul’s Voyages and Travels, Erie Canal by Jacob Abbott is a well-written mid-nineteenth century juvenile adventure publication. The author’s intent was to write stories to entertain young readers but to also communicate about the Canal:

. . . as extensive and varied information as possible, in respect to the geography, the scenery, the customs and the institutions of this country, as they present themselves to the observation of the little traveler . . .

Non-fictional accounts of travel on the Canal are plentiful as well, including less than complimentary narratives such as that of Mrs. Frances Trollope (mother of author Anthony Trollope) who wrote, “I can hardly imagine any motive of conscience powerful enough to induce me again to imprison myself in a canal boat under ordinary circumstances.”

Her description of Lockport indicates not everyone found the fast pace of innovation and industry along the Canal appealing:

Lockport is, beyond all comparison, the strangest looking place I ever beheld. As fast as a dozen trees were cut down, a factory was raised up. It looks as if the demons of machinery, having invaded the peaceful realms of nature, have fixed on Lockport as the battleground on which they should strive for mastery . . .