The Illinois and Michigan Canal, 1827–1911
A Selection of Documents from the Illinois State Archives

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December 8, 1849

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When the canal first was opened in the spring of 1848 only sixteen boats had been commissioned to navigate through it. But demand soon was met and by the end of that first summer a large number of boats, in various degrees of soundness, were operating. Passenger packets and line, lake, and river craft generally were keelboats. The smaller lake and river boats in question probably were steam powered. The decked and open scows were flatboats.

Toll collectors, in granting clearances, were required to account for each boat's cargo and to match tallies with bills of lading (see document 42). They recorded passenger names as well. John H. Kinzie had been appointed the canal's toll collector and inspector for Chicago on May 6, 1848. His annual salary was $1,000. Kinzie served in this position until 1861 when President Lincoln appointed him Chicago's paymaster for the army. John H. Kinzie's father, John Kinzie, had been one of the city's earliest white settlers, having arrived in 1804.

Points to Consider

What percentage of boats registered, minus the number with name changes, had been lost or were unfit for service? Why might this have been?
With the canal stretching ninety-six miles, how many boats per mile were on it December 8, 1849?
What was a pass. packet? Why would one have chosen to have traveled in a passenger packet along the canal rather than by stagecoach?
If you had been transporting grain in an open scow along the I and M, what would have been your principal concern?

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