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Canal Mania in Indiana - Focus

This issue and the next focus on Indiana canals of the nineteenth century. This issue provides general background about canals and internal improvements. It focuses on what travel on a canal boat was like and the economic effects of canals. The Canal Construction in Indiana issue will focus on how canals were constructed.

On page 3 is a map demonstrating the long interest in canal building in Indiana, from 1805 through 1915.

On pages 4 and 5, there are brief overviews of Indiana's internal improvements efforts and canals in Indiana and nationally. Space has limited coverage to the Wabash and Erie Canal and the Whitewater Canal.

Two personal narratives are then used (pages 6-9) to demonstrate what it was like to travel by canal boat in Indiana in 1851. Both accounts describe travel on the Wabash and Erie Canal, but travel on other canals would have been similar.

The economic impact of canals is then discussed (pages 10-13). The interview of a Whitewater Canal boat captain--who played an important part in the economy--demonstrates also the enthusiasm and spirit of the canal era.

The spirit of that era is continued in the present-day organizations and people who study and commemorate canals. The Canal Society of Indiana has been helpful in our quest for materials. Paul Baudendistel, a resident of Metamora on the Whitewater Canal, has been invaluable. Baudendistel's long involvement with the canal is the subject of "Behind the Scenes" on page 14.

As usual, a selection of resources is available on page 15.

We hope that this issue will help to interest more people in the canal heritage of Indiana. Students and others should investigate the effect of canals in their own areas. They should then add this information to the resources available at both the local and state level as a result of those investigations. There is still much to be learned about canals in Indiana, and every reader can contribute.