Guide to Canal Records
Office of the Canal Commissioners
A1440. Incoming correspondence relating to canals, ca. 1830-1880. 3 cu. ft.
Arrangement: Rough chronological.
Letters and petitions are generally addressed to the Canal Board or to the Canal Commissioners, but a few originally went to the Commissioners of the Canal Fund, the Chief Clerk of the Canal Department, or the State Engineer and Surveyor. The letters mostly concern canal contracts, tolls, bonds, and other financial matters. There are also letters complaining about the condition of the canals or the performance of canal employees. Most of the petitions request that individuals be appointed to jobs in the canal system; they testify to the personal and political qualifications of the candidates and often contain numerous signatures. A few petitions ask for repairs or improvements to the canal system. It appears that these documents are fragments of one or more larger series which are now lost.
A1899. Contract documents for canal enlargement and repairs, ca. 1836-1900. 60 cu. ft.
Arrangement: By canal, therein numerical by contract number or transferred account number.
These records document execution and fulfillment of contracts for canal construction and repairs. The records include the original agreements between the Canal Commissioners and contractors for excavation of the canal, for construction of locks, bridges, and other structures, and for general repairs; detailed specifications (generally printed) for the work; bonds given by contractors for performance of work and for payment of workmen's wages; "final estimates" or "final accounts" listing labor employed and materials used; affidavits of inspection of materials by the Superintendent of Repairs (usually) or Canal Commissioner (rarely); "estimates on contracts" listing amounts due monthly on Canal Enlargement contracts; and a few contracts and accompanying estimates of money due for earlier enlargement work. The contract documents are generally labelled with name of contractor, date, sequential number, and location of work. Series A1267, Accounts of Monies Paid to Contractors and Others for Construction, Repair, and Enlargement of Erie and Champlain Canals (page 72), contains records relating to contracts filed with the Auditor of the Canal Department.
Finding aids: Container list.
A1125. Contracts and accounts for construction and repair, ca. 1817-1828. 10 cu. ft.
These financial accounts and original contracts were submitted by the Canal Commissioners to the Comptroller's Office for audit. They deal mainly with the construction and repair of the Erie and Champlain canals. Included among the files are contractors' receipts for payment; check rolls for labor submitted by superintendents of construction; abstracts and vouchers of the principal engineers and their assistants; and a small amount of correspondence. Series A1267, Accounts of Monies Paid to Contractors and Others for Construction, Repair, and Enlargement of Erie and Champlain Canals (page 72), contains records relating to contracts filed with the Auditor of the Canal Department.
A0810. Canvass of proposals for Erie Canal Enlargement, 1851. 1 volume
Arrangement: Alphabetical by name of bidder, then numerical by section number.
This series consists of proposals for construction. Each entry provides number of proposal; names of bidder and guarantors; section number; and amount of bid. Legislation of 1827 (Revised Statutes, Part I, Chapter 9, Title 9, Article 2, Sections 34-39) empowered the Canal Commissioners to accept proposals for work on canals. Enlargement of the Erie Canal was authorized by legislation of 1834 (Chapter 312).
A1268. Index to contracts for Erie Canal Improvements, ca. 1840-1860. 0.3 cu. ft.
This series consists of an index containing two sections: (1) Cross reference between number of canal section and letter and number of contract, arranged by division of canal and name of Canal Commissioner. (2) List of miscellaneous contracts, with name of Canal Commissioner, letter and number of contract, and location (section, lock). It is not known which volume it indexes. Many of the names in the index appear in Canal Contract Book, 1835-1855, unit 39, but the page numbers do not match.
A0819. Financial and administrative records of canals, 1838-1880. 0.5 cu. ft.
Arrangement: By record type, then chronological.
Records documenting operation of the canals include rough tallies of cargo loaded on canal boat "Sovereign" at various ports, 1838; statements of publication of notices by Commissioners of the Canal Fund, 1841, 1844, 1846; statements of tolls submitted to the Canal Commissioners for reimbursement, 1842-1844, with receipts for tolls paid; vouchers issued by Commissioners of the Canal Fund, 1843-1846; receipts for payment of certificates issued by Canal Board for Erie, Champlain, and Chenango canals, 1844-1846; auditor's warrants for payments from Canal Fund through the Manhattan Company, 1850-1852, with receipts; section contracts for enlargement of the Cayuga and Seneca Canal, 1859; inventory of furniture in possession of Collector of Canal Tolls at Lockport, 1866; a few routine letters to the Canal Board, 1874-1875; and estimates of cost of repairs to the Erie, Champlain, Oswego, Cayuga and Seneca, and Chenango canals, 1880, submitted by section superintendents to the Superintendent of Public Works, with warrants to the Auditor of the Canal Department to pay.
A1316. Comptroller's register of checks drawn for Canal Commissioners, 1817-1824. 1 volume
The register includes two entries for each check, debiting the account of the Canal Commissioners and crediting the bank on which the check was drawn. Entries provide check number; date; account; bank drawn on; and payee. There are also about 8 letters from the Manhattan Company to the State Auditor concerning State stock issues, 1857-1859, and miscellaneous printed forms of the Canal Department, 1871-1873.
A1006. Western Inland Lock Navigation Company damage assessments and reimbursement, 1820. 0.2 cu. ft.
Records documenting this company's claims for damages include a report of the appraisers on damages; resolution of the company's board of directors authorizing Barent Bleecker to receive award from the State, with his receipt for $91,616; Thomas Eddy's account of expense of appraisement; and a copy of legislative committee report on the company's petition. A law of 1817 (Chapter 262) authorized the Canal Commissioners to appropriate the company's property and to apply to the Supreme Court to appoint appraisers to assess damages to the property. The law authorized reimbursement for the damages to be paid from the Canal Fund.
A0828. Entry documentation for canal-related expenses, 1827-1901. 0.5 cu. ft.
Arrangement: By record type.
Records of financial matters relate to the Erie Canal and feeder canals. Many of the records resulted from laws authorizing improvements on the canal system, including the 1835 law (Chapter 274) authorizing the Canal Commissioners to enlarge the Erie Canal, alter feeder canals, and construct new feeders, as necessary. These records include annual financial and real estate holdings; statements; receipts; bills of sale and mortgage sales of canal boats; property mortgages; claims for compensation for land appropriated by the Canal Department; commutation releases of rights or property; and other canal records. The records usually provide names of parties involved, amounts of money and/or descriptions of property, and dates.
A1126. Abstracts and vouchers of expenditures, ca. 1831-1869. 17 cu. ft.
Arrangement: Chronological by month.
Abstracts of expenditures by Canal Commissioners were submitted monthly for audit by the Comptroller's office. Each abstract lists vouchers by number and provides name of payee, nature of expenditure, and amount. The abstracts include every sort of expenditure for canals, such as ordinary repairs carried out by Superintendent of Repairs, new construction, repair of breaks in the canal, damages to adjacent lands, equipment for offices of toll collectors and weigh masters, building of State boats, advertising for proposals, etc. Each abstract includes an affidavit of the Canal Commissioner that the accounts are correct; accompanying it are the original receipted vouchers. Sometimes invoices and letters are attached. Most of the abstracts and vouchers were originally bundled by month, the wrapper bearing the name of the Commissioner, inclusive dates, and total amount of vouchers.
A1132. Superintendents of Repairs' reports of expenditures for repairs, 1835-1878. 12 cu. ft.
Arrangement: By canal.
These are reports on expenditures made by Superintendents of Repairs and submitted to the canal commissioner responsible for a specific division of the canal system. The report format varies, but entries always provide the name and location of structure or work, amount of labor and materials used, and unit cost and total expenditure. The reports also include statistics of the amount of money expended for locks, bridges, walls, buildings, and tools.
Finding aids: Container list.
A1131. Superintendents of Repairs' estimates of expenditures for repairs, 1835-1905. 11 cu. ft.
Arrangement: By canal.
Estimates of proposed expenditures for canal repairs were submitted by Superintendents of Repairs to the canal commissioner responsible for a specific division of the canal system. The format of the estimates varies, but each estimate provides the location of work project, names of structures or work involved, and an estimated cost of labor and materials. Also included are certificates from the canal commissioner or the Superintendent of Public Works attesting to the fact that the estimated expenditures are necessary and correct.
Finding aids: Container list.
A3131. Vouchers for expenditures on enlargement of the Erie Canal, 1837-1848, bulk 1848. 3 cu. ft.
Arrangement: Numerical by voucher number.
These vouchers were submitted to a canal commissioner and are accompanied by a receipt for money paid by him. Vouchers specify the nature of the debt incurred by the State in connection with the enlargement: appraising property; moving buildings; advertising for proposal; excavating earth; and constructing or altering locks, waste weirs, dams, and other canal structures. The earlier vouchers include a separate receipt, while the later ones are printed forms bearing the receipt on the same sheet.
Finding aids: Container list.
A1129. Resident and division engineers' monthly estimates, 1850-1868, 1875. 4 cu. ft.
Estimates of work done and materials delivered under contracts in force on a particular canal division were submitted monthly by the resident and division engineers to the Canal Commissioners. The formats vary somewhat, but each estimate provides number of canal section; name of contractors; quantity and type of materials and labor to be supplied; value of the same; and sometimes the unit price. Many types of construction and repair work are included in the estimates-- locks, aqueducts, other structures, and general excavation. The series also contains abstracts of the monthly estimates. The name of canal, date, and engineer's name are usually given on the cover. Monthly estimates from division and resident engineers were first required by legislation of 1850 (Chapter 377).
A1098. Estimates of work done and material delivered on Erie, Champlain, and Black River canals, 1867-1868. 0.1 cu. ft.
Arrangement: Rough geographical order.
Five booklets containing estimates were submitted to the Canal Commissioners by the resident engineer for various improvements on Erie (eastern division), Champlain, and Black River canal sections, locks, dams, docks and piers. Entries provide location of improvement; quantity and value of material used; name of contractor; and labor performed. Booklets are dated September, November, December, 1867, and January, October 1868, and are addressed to R.C. Dorn, Canal Commissioner; each booklet contains at the end a statement of the resident attesting to the accuracy of the statements contained therein.
A0954. Vouchers for repair of Ox Bow break, Erie Canal, 1871. 0.3 cu. ft.
Vouchers dated at Perinton, Monroe County, request payment for labor, supplies, boarding costs, and other repair expenses. Accompanying the vouchers is a letter of W.W. Selye to Canal Commissioner John D. Fay. Laws of 1871 authorized the Canal Commissioners to expend money for repairs to breaks which interrupted navigation on the canals.
A0392. Engineers' drafts and vouchers for general fund, 1895-1896. 0.5 cu. ft.
Arrangement: By project, then chronological by date.
A0851. Original maps of surveys for the Erie Canal ("Geddes Maps"), 1817. 1 volume
Arrangement: Geographical (west to east).
This map and profile in ink and water color of the proposed route for the Erie Canal was made by James Geddes in 1817. Geddes was appointed engineer in charge of the survey by the commissioners appointed under legislation of 1816 (Chapter 237). He was instructed to survey and map a route for the canal which, west of the Genesee River, was somewhat to the north of the route he had surveyed in 1808.
On a scale of 10 chains = 1 inch, the map shows proposed line of the canal (in green); roads; houses; mills; settlements; streams, ponds, and lakes; steep terrain; swamps and marshes; town and lot lines; and other features adjacent to the canal route.
The area mapped extends from the "Tonewanta Creek" east to the outlet of Mud Creek in the "Great Cayuga Marsh" (Montezuma). At that point a note indicates that the survey was continued by Benjamin Wright (survey not in this series). The map and profile occupy 19 double-page sheets. A map of the entire route is located at the end of the surveys.
A0800. Survey maps and plans for projected canal alterations, ca. 1830-1851. 64 maps
These maps, in a few cases with attached correspondence, depict various improvements along canal routes. Most of the maps deal with the Erie Canal and are concerned with a specific section of the canal. The maps show locks; bridges; railroad bridges across canals; locations of canal alterations; aqueducts; and reservoirs and feeders.
The series includes maps of the Erie, Chemung, Chenango, Sodus, Oneida Lake, Champlain, and Cayuga and Seneca canals. The maps appear to have been made by the Office of Surveyor General in compliance with legislation of 1827 (Revised Statutes, Part I, Chapter 9, Title 9, Article 1) requiring a complete map and field notes of all State canals. They were probably forwarded to the Comptroller, who was a Commissioner of the Canal Fund and a member of the Canal Board.
Finding aids: Item list.
A0852. Survey map of the Susquehanna and Chemung rivers, 1830. 1 volume
Arrangement: Geographical (southwest).
This volume contains survey maps of a proposed railroad from Fort Plain on the Erie Canal to Otsego Lake and of the Susquehanna and Chemung rivers, "for a Slack Water Navigation." Maps show streams; lakes; towns; roads; bridges; mills; and town and county lines. Maps begin at Fort Plain and end at Elmira; no scale is given. The survey was made and the maps drawn under direction of the Canal Commissioners in accordance with legislation of 1830 (Chapter 66).
A0848. Canal system survey maps ("Holmes Hutchinson maps"), 1832-1843. 19 cu. ft. (26 volumes)
Arrangement: By canal.
Bound folio volumes contain ink, wash and charcoal maps of the canal system in New York State. The maps show survey stations for measuring length of the canal; courses and distances (linked by red lines); canal right-of-way (blue line); locks; aqueducts; basins; other hydraulic structures; bridges; mill races; buildings; streams, ponds, and lakes; steep grades; and adjacent county, town, and property lines. The scale is not given.
Volumes include maps for Erie Canal, 1834; Chemung Canal and Feeder, 1843; Crooked Lake Canal and Cayuga and Seneca Canal, 1834; Cayuga and Seneca Canal, n.d.; Chenango Canal, 1838; Seneca River Improvement, 1840; Champlain Canal, 1830; and Genesee Valley Canal, 1841, 1850, n.d. Two volumes of Black River Canal survey maps are missing. These surveys were made pursuant to legislation of 1827 (Revised Statutes, Part I, Chapter 9, Title 9, Article 1) requiring a complete manuscript map and field notes of every canal to be completed.
Available on microfilm.
A1058. Designs for Watervliet Arsenal Bridge, 1851. 1 sheet
A sheet of water color and ink drawings depicts the completed Watervliet Arsenal Bridge and the proposed bridge; it is dated December 1, 1851. Legislation of 1827 (Revised Statutes, Part I, Chapter 9, Title 9, Article 2, Sections 17- 18) provided for the Canal Commissioners to authorize needed repairs and construction on the canal system and directed that all surveys, plans, and estimates be submitted in advance to the Canal Commissioners for their approval.
A0854. Map of extension of Genesee Valley Canal from Olean to Mill Grove Pond, 1857. 1 map
This manuscript map shows survey lines for a 6.7 mile extension of the Genesee Valley Canal from Olean to Mill Grove Pond, as authorized by Chapter 247, Laws of 1857. Construction work was contracted in November 1857, and about 6 miles was completed and brought into use in August 1859.
The map shows four survey lines labeled "A" through "D" and includes the Canal Board's resolution approving line "C." In addition to survey lines, the map shows names of villages and property owners along the proposed extension route; significant buildings; locks; tollgates; survey stations; topographic shadings; woodland areas; and bodies of water. The map was drawn in red and black ink by William Rumble at a scale of six chains = one inch.
A1195. Calendar of petitions, 1849-1854. 1 volume
Arrangement: Chronological by date of petition.
A list of petitions to the Canal Commissioners provides the number and date of petition; name of petitioner; and "nature of the petition and action had". Petitions are numbered from 1 through 120 and concern location of the Erie Canal enlargement; construction of bridges, culverts, docks, and other structures; water power privileges; and all other matters under the authority of the Canal Commissioners. The original petitions to the Canal Commissioners appear to be lost but a few may be found in Series A1440, Incoming Correspondence Relating to Canals (page 60).
A0815. Impeachment trial subpoenas and subpoena tickets for Canal Commissioner, 1853. 0.5 cu. ft.
Subpoenas and subpoena tickets were issued by the clerk of the Court for the Trial of Impeachments, August 14-16, 1853. John C. Mather was impeached and convicted for unauthorized and excessive expenditures as canal commissioner. The Constitution of 1846 empowered the Assembly to impeach State officers and directed the Senate, the President of the Senate, and the Judges of the Court of Appeals to form a Court for the Trial of Impeachments to try them.