On this day in 1825, the Erie Canal officially opened as Governor Dewitt Clinton began a voyage from Buffalo to New York City aboard a canal boat named the Seneca Chief. In the precursor to the modern Internet, cannons were lined up within earshot of each other along the route, and as the Seneca Chief departed, the first cannon was fired, then the next and so on until the folks in NYC found out the canal was officially open – some 81 minutes later. At the time, this was the fasted form of communication ever. Supposedly.

Most people don’t know it, but New York was kind of a minor city back then – Philly was the big port since it had access to routes on the western “frontier.” The Erie Canal connected the Atlantic Ocean (and NYC) to the Great Lakes, meaning people could ship their crap as far west as Duluth, by barge. A helluva lot cheaper than loading everything into wagons.

Thanks to Irish engineering (aka, “the shovel”), they managed to dig a 400 or so mile long ditch from roughly (as the song goes) Albany to Buffalo in only a couple of years. Rumor has it, they’d drop off a bunch of Irishmen and shovels in one spot (no doubt they picked them up from in front of Home Depot), and a barrel of Whisky a few miles away where they wanted them to finish for the day. That, and $10 a week was all the needed to get the job done.

Ah, those were the days.