Saturday, December 8, 2012

John Stevens: Father of American Railroads

"In its early years the Unites States was plagued by disunity. Inadequate, uncertain transportation isolated the states and the few cities which clung to the Atlantic coast. George Washington's dearm of a network of canals was slow to materialize. Good roads scarcely existed. The relative ease of sea transportation made New York closer to Europe than to the Mississippi River. Travelers journeyed by Concord coach, horseback or, preferably by boat. Between New England towns they patronized the "Apple Tree Fleet" schooners whose skippers took bearings from orchards along the beaches. In winter a Philadelphian might travel by stagecoach to Baltimore in five days - with luck! Pack-horse trains were common in the Appalachians. Ten days were necessary for the sad news of Washington's death to reach Boston. Delegates often met difficulty and delay traveling to captials for legislative sessions. Poor transportation hobbled the nation's economy and the functioning of its government. Unity was next to impossible. During this period - considered as one of the most critical in America's history - Colonel John Stevens of New Jersey faced these challenges. Born in Manhattan and a graduate of King's College, now Columbia University, Stevens had been an officer in Washington's army. From 1777 to 1782 he had helped to finance the Revolution as Treasurer of his state."

Good Reading Rack Service, 1958

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