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The British government merchantilistic system discourages development of transportation between colonies. William Penn examines the possibility of a canal between the Delaware River and New York Bay, but it is never built. The French and Indian War ends in 1763 and Great Britain gains controls of all lands previously held by France. England pays for the war by increasing taxes on its American Colonies. Restrictions on the colonists eventually lead to a fight for independence from the crown. Canals existed throughout Europe and were used for many centuries. The British government did not build canals in its colonies because it did not want to encourage inter-colony trade. Raw materials were sent to the coast for trade with England.
New Jersey's coastal plain is crossed several times by Washington's army during the American Revolution. The Millstone River Valley and the Brunswick Pike become important routes for transport of men and munitions. The new nation establishes trade roads between states and into the land west of the original colonies. People envision a canal connecting the Delaware River and the Raritan River. During the American Revolution, access to raw materials and finished goods from England is halted. Many people support efforts to establish a new nation, but others see poor manufacturing capabilities and internal trade routes as reasons to remain under British rule. The United States wins its independence from Great Britain. The new nation seeks to establish trading partners in Europe and the new world. Poor roads and shallow rivers create internal trade problems for the new nation. Great Britain blockades trade with other countries. Cotton gin invented in 1793 and makes it possible to prepare large amounts of cotton for trading. This ties the south to its land and encourages the institution of slavery in the region.
Several plans are made for a canal across the narrow middle of New Jersey, but these early attempts are never realized. In 1825, with the opening of the Erie Canal, "Canal Fever" hits the country and canals are planned and built across the states. The Louisiana Purchase (1803) adds more land to the country. Roads and canals are built to lead into the new land. The United States fights the British in the War of 1812 (1812-1815). Early railroads are developed. Prosperous times drive people to look for faster more efficient ways to transport goods and people. Steam is experimentally used as energy to propel trains and boats.
The State of New Jersey charters the Delaware & Raritan Canal and the Camden & Amboy Railroad in 1830. The Delaware & Raritan Canal is built during 1830-1834. This creates the final link in the intercoastal waterway that extends from Massachusetts to Georgia. The United States fights Mexico in the Mexican-American War (1846-1848). Tensions grow between the north and south due to differences that include a growing economic gap. Manifest Destiny and the 1849 gold rush in California lead to mass migration across the continent. The telegraph is invented in 1846 and is used for communication on canals and railroad lines. Trains are becoming faster and new railroad lines are built. The rapid growth of industry and prosperity in the north is tied to the larger number of railroads and canals built there.
Canals are used to transport troops and supplies during the Civil War. Canal income and cargo transported reaches its height in the post-war years. The 1871 lease of the Delaware & Raritan Canal by the Pennsylvania Railroad results in the decline of coal transport along the canal. The South fights the North in an attempt to create a separate nation (1861-1865). Many factors, including the South's inferior transportation routes, leads to its defeat. After the war, the Industrial Revolution continues. Homesteaders settle the mid-west and the plains states. Railroads become faster and are built across the country. The connection of the east and west coasts by rail is celebrated in 1869. People experiment with flying in lighter-than-air balloons and blimps.
The Canal's financial losses begin in 1893. It is used to transport ships and troops during the Spanish-American War and World War I. The feeder canal closes in 1913. Pleasure boating on the canal increases and reaches its height in the 1920s. The canal is used by rum runners and bootleggers to transport their liquor during Prohibition. There is a decrease in pleasure boating and transport of goods during economic bust of the 1930s. The canal ceases operations in 1932. The Spanish American War (1898) adds land in the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific Ocean to the United States. The great Panama Canal opens in 1914. World War I is fought in Europe from 1914-1918 and the United States is involved from 1917-1918. The United States enters a period of isolation after World War I. The country experiences an economic boom time in the 1920s. The Great Depression in the 1930s leads to the closure of many businesses. The automobile is invented in the 1880s. Roads are paved or built to meet needs of automobiles as economic prosperity leads to an increase in the number of cars. The airplane is invented in 1903 and is commercially successful by the 1920s. Airplanes and blimps undertake transoceanic flights. Trucks begin to rival trains in transporting goods.
The State of New Jersey takes over the canal and uses it for water supply. Plans to turn it into a ship canal are interrupted by World War II and never fulfilled. Concrete dams with water control valves replace the lock gates in the 1940s. Some portions of the canal are filled in and become part of the expanding highway system. Citizen activists see a need to save the canal from total destruction. The United States fights in World War II in Europe, Africa and Asia from 1941-1945. Prosperity in the 1950s and 1960s leads to suburban expansion and industrial growth. A massive network of superhighways is built throughout the country. United States fights in the Korean War (1950-1951) and the Vietnam War (1964-1973). Environmental movements of the 1960s show the need to preserve the country's natural and cultural resources. The use of blimps for major transport ends with the Hindenburgh disaster in 1937. Commercial use of the airplanes grows. Trucks battle trains for transportation dominance. Passenger travel on planes and buses increases. The computer is invented in the 1940s. Trains continue to lose passengers to airplanes and freight to trucking lines. Many railroad lines are abandoned. The Soviet Union launches Sputnik in 1957 and begins the space race.
The canal is increasingly used for recreation. Delaware & Raritan Canal State Park is established by the State of New Jersey in 1974. The energy crisis of the 1970s results in many people working to protect our resources. The Soviet Bloc breaks apart in 1989-1990. The United States leads a coalition of nations against Iraqi aggression in the Gulf War (1991). Interstate passenger train service becomes unprofitable and is taken over by the federal government in 1970. Home computers allow many people to work anywhere and a trend in "telecommuting" begins. Suburbs spread further from the cities.