Historic Waterways Adventure Online Curriculum

The Historic Waterways Adventure Online Curriculum

[] Courtesy of the Rochester Museum & Science Center, Rochester, NY

The Historic Waterways Adventure Online Curriculum is comprised of a series of eight investigations that utilize primary sources: literary transcripts, maps, paintings, sheet music, engravings, reports and other documents from public and private collections, to explore what life was like on the Erie Canal. Students of all ages will have abundant opportunities to draw their own conclusions about who lived, worked and traveled on the Erie Canal, what their lives were like, and how their experiences compare to our lives today. Those who engage in the Historic Waterways Adventure will be able to trace the importance and use of the canal over time, and imagine what the future of the canal may hold.

When completed in 1825, the Erie Canal stretched 363 miles across New York State, connecting Buffalo with Albany, New York. Created by human and animal power, contemporaries heralded the canal as a technological marvel. Many considered it to be the Eight Wonder of the World. The Erie Canal dramatically influenced the development of New York State and America. Cities along its route grew rapidly and prospered. The Erie Canal turned Rochester, New York into a boomtown, New York City became the largest seaport in America, and New York State grew to be the Empire State. Americans and European immigrants moved westward via the Erie Canal, and expanded the boundaries of the United States.

The document-based investigations of the Historic Waterways Adventure will prepare students for the Document-Based Questions that are part of 5th and 8th grade New York State Social Studies Assessments. It is recommended that anyone planning a cruise on the contemporary Erie Canal experience the Historic Waterways Adventure before cruising.

The Historic Waterways Adventure Online Curriculum was created with grants from
Local Government Records Management Improvement Fund through the New York State Archives
Klos Historical Fund
from The Community Foundation, Rochester, New York.
We are grateful to these organizations for their interest in and support for the project.

About the Documents on the Site:

We are grateful to the many repositories that generously provided images and documents for the Historic Waterways Adventure Online Curriculum, so that students would have access to the rich resources that provide incomparable opportunities to understand the past. Images are provided for educational use only and may not be reproduced without permission of the owners.


  1. How to use this site


  2. What Is A Document
  3. Moving Goods on the Erie Canal
  4. Mules and Horses along the Canal
  5. Low Bridge - Everybody Down!
  6. Going to Town
  7. What's Cooking? Food on the Erie Canal
  8. Songs, Stories, Folklore, and Entertainment
  9. Canalling in the Winter

    Additional Resources

  10. Glossary

Rights and Reproductions

We would like to thank those who have contributed to the Historic Waterways Adventure Online Curriculum:

All images in the Historic Waterways Online Curriculum are protected by copyright and have been provided for educational use only. All other rights, including reproduction or re-distribution of these images, are reserved by the source institutions. Please contact the appropriate repositories for permissions.

A consortium of Rochester, New York educators and historians created The Historic Waterways Adventure Online Curriculum. The partnership included educators Dr. Lisa Wing and Christopher Dolgos of the Genesee Community Charter School; Robbin DeHollander and Jennifer Tomm of the Rochester City School District; and Jennie DeBree of Aha! Consulting. Historians who participated were Mary Jo Lanphear, Town of Brighton Historian, Ruth Rosenberg Naparsteck of Herons Bend Productions, and Victoria Schmitt of Corn Hill Navigation. Zachary Welch of Tech N' Taboodle LLC designed and built the online curriculum site, and Kathryn Murano of the Rochester Museum & Science Center secured facsimile copies of all the documents, and designed and built the downloadable version of the online curriculum. Jan Wyland of the Rochester Museum & Science Center provided editorial support and Sandy LaFay of Corn Hill Navigation provided administrative support.