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Throughout the Ages
A Visual Document Resource

Questions: 1918

Image. Barge Canal. Laborers constructing the Barge Canal.
Laborers working on the construction of the Barge Canal, 1909. Men using picks and shovels, and horses and oxen hauling loaded wagons, also worked side by side with "modern" machinery and materials, that included concrete, electricity, steam shovels, pile drivers, and hydraulic equipment.

Each document set in this website is designed to help students answer an essay question relating to a specific time in Erie Canal history.

The following activities and questions are designed to help students think about the evidence they see in the documents and relate it to the information in the accompanying descriptions. Ultimately students will have enough knowledge to write a coherent, well-documented, well- organized essay about each document set.

Link to printable version of the 1918 Document-Based Questions and the associated worksheets

Note — To print the DBQs you need to have Adobe Acrobat Reader (a free download)

1918 - The Barge Canal

Key Concepts

  1. Boat traffic on the Erie Canal had been decreasing steadily for several years. By 1900, many products that used to be shipped on the Erie Canal were now shipped by railroad.
  2. In 1903, New York State residents were asked to vote to allow the State of New York to spend $101 million of taxpayers' money to expand and improve the aging Erie Canal.
  3. The information in historical documents can be used to help us learn about the past.


annual - once every year
barge - a large boat used for transporting materials
cargo - the goods carried by boat, railroad, and other vehicles
converge - move toward one place
divert - to turn aside from a course or direction
generator- - a machine used to make electricity
obsolete - no longer useful
tax - a payment made by people to support a government

Document-Based Question
The Barge Canal Expansion

After looking at the documents and answering these questions, students will be able to understand why New Yorkers had mixed feelings about the proposed Barge Canal expansion; why the expansion was necessary; and how it benefited commerce in New York State.

Part A. Examine the following documents and answer each of the questions that follow them.


  1. Rome Daily Sentinel, Newspaper Article
  2. Vote No, Broadside
  3. Canal at Lyons, New York, Photograph

Part B. Essay: Write a well-organized essay using the documents, the answers to the questions in Part A, and your own knowledge of the subject.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, people in New York State were asked to vote on using state tax money to make the old Erie Canal into a wider, modern Barge Canal. Explain why some people wanted the Barge Canal expansion and others did not.

In your essay, remember to:

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