Development of Transportation 1931 ERPI Classroom Films

Support this channel: OR more at ‘Surveys the rapid growth of transportation in the United States from the early settlers to the jet age.’ Originally a public domain film from the Library of Congress Prelinger Archives, slightly…

Development of Transportation 1931 ERPI Classroom Films



Support this channel: OR

more at

‘Surveys the rapid growth of transportation in the United States from the early settlers to the jet age.’

Originally a public domain film from the Library of Congress Prelinger Archives, slightly cropped to remove uneven edges, with the aspect ratio corrected, and one-pass brightness-contrast-color correction & mild video noise reduction applied.
The soundtrack was also processed with volume normalization, noise reduction, clipping reduction, and/or equalization (the resulting sound, though not perfect, is far less noisy than the original).
Wikipedia license:

Transportation in the United States is facilitated by road, air, rail, and waterways (via boats). The vast majority of passenger travel occurs by automobile for shorter distances, and airplane (or railroad, in some regions) for longer distances. In descending order, most cargoes travel by railroad, truck, pipeline, or boat; air shipping is typically used only for perishables and premium express shipments…

Speed to destination is an important factor in choosing a mode of transportation. In the late 18th century overland transportation was by horse, while water and river transportation was primarily by sailing vessel. The United States population was centered on its Atlantic coast, with all major population centers located on a natural harbor or navigable waterway. Low population density between these centers resulted in a heavy reliance on coastwise and riverboat shipping. The first government expenditures on highway transportation were funded to speed the delivery of overland mail, such as the Boston Post Road between New York City and Boston. Due to the distances between these population centers and the cost to maintain the roads, many highways in the late 18th century and early 19th century were private turnpikes. Other highways were mainly unimproved and impassable by wagon at least some of the year. Economic expansion in the late 18th century to early 19th century spurred the building of canals to speed goods to market, of which the most prominently successful example was the Erie Canal.

Access to water transportation shaped the geography of early settlements and boundaries. For example, the Erie Canal escalated the Toledo War between Ohio and Michigan in the 1830s. The disputed Erie Triangle was awarded to Pennsylvania to give it access to Lake Erie. Most of West Florida was given to Mississippi and Alabama to guarantee their access to the Gulf of Mexico.

Development of the mid-western and southern states drained by the Mississippi River system (Mississippi, Ohio and Missouri Rivers) was accelerated by the introduction of steamboats on these rivers in the early 19th Century. These three rivers (among others) also form the borders of several states. Prior to the introduction of steamboats, transit upstream was impractical because of strong currents on parts of these waterways. Steamboats provided both passenger and freight transportation until the development of railroads later in the 19th Century gradually reduced their presence.

The rapid expansion of Railroads brought the canal boom to a sudden end, providing a quick, scheduled and year round mode of transportation that quickly spread to interconnect the states by the mid-19th century. During the industrialization of the United States after the Civil War, railroads, led by the transcontinental rail system in the 1860s, expanded quickly across the United States to serve industries and the growing cities. During the late 19th century, railroads often had built redundant routes to a competitor’s road or built through sparsely populated regions that generated little traffic. These marginal rail routes survived the pricing pressures of competition, or the lack of revenue generated by low traffic, as long as railroads provided the only efficient economical way to move goods and people across the United States. In addition to the intercity passenger network running on Class I and II railroads, a large network of interurban (trolley or “street running”) rail lines extended out from the cities and interchanged passenger and freight traffic with the railroads and also provided competition.

The advent of the automobile signaled the end of railroads as the predominant transportation for people and began an era of mobility in the United States that added greatly to its economic output…

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