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America on the Move
Collection Exhibition Themes
Community Dreams: Santa Cruz, California, 1876 Delivering the Goods: Watsonville, California, 1895 A Streetcar City: Washington, D.C., 1900 People on the Move The Connected City: New York, New York, 1920s Crossing the Country: Somewhere in Wyoming, 1903 Americans Adopt the Auto Lives on the Railroad: Salisbury, North Carolina, 1927 The People's Highway: Route 66, 1930s-1940s Roadside Communities: Ring's Rest, Muirkirk, Maryland, 1930s Family Camping: York Beach, Maine, 1930s On the School Bus: Martinsburg, Indiana, 1939 Suburban Strip: Sandy Boulevard, Portland, Oregon, 1949 City and Suburb: Chicago and Park Forest, Illinois, 1950s On the Interstate: I-10, 1956-1990 Transforming the Waterfront: San Francisco and Oakland, California, 1960-1970 Going Global: Los Angeles Introduction Connecting the Growing Nation A Century of Progress?
Transportation in America before 1876

In this introductory section, explore the ways that improved American transportation networks helped create new links within the country. See how the nation’s growing numbers of steamships, roads, canals, and railroads—including the first transcontinental railroad in 1869—created skeins of connection in the nation. Take a look at a map of America in 1876—the country’s centennial year—and see how the transportation systems had developed into an increasingly national network.

View from the exhibition
View from the exhibition

In the 19th century, as the United States spread across the continent, transportation systems helped connect the growing nation. First rivers and roads and then canals and railroads moved travelers and agricultural and manufactured goods between farms, towns, and cities. Transportation links helped create a set of distinct local and regional economies. They also contributed to the sectional jealousies and rivalries that set the stage for the Civil War. Not until the end of the century would transportation networks form a national economy.

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