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

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Canal navigation in 1854 extended from March 15 through December 1, a period of 263 days. Tolls totaled $198,327 with $89,946 collected at Chicago, $11,970 at Lockport, $12,679 at Ottawa, and $83,732 at La Salle. As opposed to 1852 the tolls charged on goods entering at La Salle nearly equaled those imposed at Chicago (see document 39 explanation). The aggregate number of miles passed by boats on the canal totaled 378,428, the equivalent of 3,942 boats navigating the entire 96 mile route. But passenger aggregate miles were only 21,882, the equivalent of 228 persons over the whole length.

The Chicago and Rock Island Railroad Company had opened the Chicago to Rock Island line in the summer of 1854. Passengers and higher class freight soon were drawn to this faster alternative. In response the canal cut many of its tolls and by so doing continued to dominate for years when it came to such second class items as lumber, grain, coal, and stone. By the end of 1854 the C&RIRR had completed a branch south from Bureau Junction to Peoria. Despite this competition canal toll revenues in 1854 exceeded those of 1853 by $25,000. The trustees were counting on the general growth of the region to maintain the canal's profits.

For a map of the completed canal route, see Exhibit A.

Points to Consider

From this partial list, in terms of weight, which were the top three items shipped along the canal?
Why were they the leading items?
In which direction was each shipped? Why?
Describe some of the agricultural implements which were being shipped out of Chicago. Where had they been manufactured?

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