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1. Infrastructure & Logistics

Map of Mt. Morris, 1872

Detail from a map of Mount Morris, NY, in 1872, showing the Northern edge of the town, along which the Genesee River runs. The Avon, Geneseo and Mt. Morris Railroad was organized in 1857, and stationed just across the Genesee River to the east, though it is not seen on this segment of the map. The Genesee Valley Canal and Avon, Geneseo and Mt. Morris Railroad revolutionized transportation during the time period. 

Gas Engine and Power Co. letterhead

Gas Engine and Power Co. letterhead advertises a company selling engines for boats that were fueled by Naphthalene. During the later nineteenth century, the usage of nonrenewable natural resources gained popularity and remains the prevalent mode of energy.

Like many American towns in the late nineteenth century, Mount Morris N.Y’s infrastructure was fairly well-established around transportation systems. As one can see, the majority of the homes, schools, banks and other facilities in the area are physically adjacent to a main road. A close proximity to the road meant easier access to many of the necessities of life, including food. The most prevalent modes of transportation during this time period were railroads and canal ways—the Erie Canal being among the first major canals in the United States. Both railroads and canals allowed for a more efficient way to travel, and exchange goods—while previously popular modes of transportation, such as horses, could carry roughly one-eighth of a ton of goods, canal systems and railroads were able to transport over 30 tons.

Thus, railroads and canal ways revolutionized the relationship between the American people, and the goods they consumed, by allowing said goods to be exchanged at higher quantities and speeds. This exchange involved the utilization of natural resources for energy. In particular, natural resources such as coal were needed to power the steam-engine trains of the late nineteenth century. Furthermore, the food inside of these trains, now travelling longer distances, needed to be appropriately contained for its journey. Growth in infrastructure catalyzed industrialization in New York State, and in many other places alike. The utilization of natural resources soon became tied to the infrastructure of the United States’ transportation system, and this occurrence certainly came with a price.

In modern times, the carbon emissions released during vehicular transport are of great concern, in light of the recent phenomenon of anthropogenic climate change. Climate change threatens a way of life most American people have grown accustomed to—a way of life tied to the usage of non-renewable resources. Large quantities of common foods travel across the country in vehicles to reach the consumer. Furthermore, the preparation of said food can require large amounts of water (a resource many are learning is not quite as easily “renewable” as once believed) to prepare. Ironically, the usage of trains and canals could prove to be more effective in the reduction environmental impact than current methods of transportation. The majority of Americans travel in their own vehicles—this increases America’s carbon emissions per person, where it is not always necessary. If more American people travelled via the use mass public transportation, this would greatly reduce America’s carbon emissions. Though transporting a large, rapidly growing population of people, without attributing greatly to climate change is a difficult feat— the model of nineteenth century infrastructure could serve as a solution to this contemporary issue.

Sources Consulted:

Poor, Henry V. History of the Railroads and Canals of the United States of America. New York: A.M. Kelley, 1970. Print.

Beers, F.W, Atlas of Livingston Co. New York, New York:  F.W Beers & Co., 1872. Print. 

1. Infrastructure & Logistics