New York City was the biggest benefactor of the Erie Canal’s success. Philadelphia, Boston and New York were comparable cities until just a few years before the Erie’s completion, but in the years following 1825, New York surged to become the preeminent city in America – and in time even a major player on the world stage.
In order for a port to be successful, good overland transportation to the surrounding countryside was also needed. Roads were horrible back then, and railroads hadn’t made their appearance yet. For heavy cargoes, water was the preferred means of transportation – when it was available!
When the Erie Canal was completed in 1825, it opened the door to the transfer of heavy cargoes from not only Central and Western New York: Produce from parts of Pennsylvania, Ohio, and eventually even southern Canada all found their way into New York City via “Clinton’s Ditch”.