Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Comparing the importance of New Yorks' and New Orleans' river basins and harbors

mississippi river
Originally uploaded by lawatt.
On the test Tuesday, Oct 11, was this essay question:
New Orleans / NYC comparison essay

The instructions were, “Describe and compare the river basins and harbor location of America’s 2 greatest ports, NYC and NO. Use your atlas and notes to name the rivers and describe the regions that contributed to these cities’ success in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.” On the board I wrote “See maps a) NYC: Hudson, Erie Canal, Great lakes. b) Mississippi Valley. My answer is below.

Imagine barges loaded with furs, fish and timber as well as barrels filled with minerals. Is that barge headed down the Mississippi to the port of New Orleans or down the Hudson to NYC? Both are possible.

In the early 1800’s the city of NO was booming from the immense amounts of cargo that came from the Ohio River valley, the Tennessee River, from the Missouri valley and the Arkansas River valley. Some 10 states were connected by major rivers to the Mississippi. In New Orleans ships were waiting to take some of these goods acroiss the oceans.

In the early 1800’s the state of New York built the Erie Canal, a 400-mile waterway that connected the Great lakes with the Hudson valley. An enormous amount of trade in fish, meat, fur, timber and minerals began to funnel toward NYC. Thus New York supplied tons of goods to the international array of ships in the NYC harbor.

Eventually NYC became America’s largest port and NO was number two. Was it because the Great Lakes and Hudson delivered more riches than the Mississippi valley? Was it because NY harbor is closer to the US trading partners in Europe? In both cases we at least see the source of America’s material success in the 1800’s and early 1900’s.

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