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Image 1: The National Road & Toll House near Frostburg, MD
During the early-19th century, the most significant road west between Baltimore and the Ohio River Valley was the National Road. The National Road provided a major east-west artery for travel, and reduced the time and cost necessary to transport goods to foreign and domestic markets. It provided a means of transporting people, goods, and ideas across a young nation. The National Road was one of a series of internal transportation improvements recommended by the Federal Government to promote and improve commerce and national security. The road consists of a series of pre-existing turnpikes, improved roads, and the nation’s first federally funded “highway,” constructed between Cumberland, Maryland and Vandalia, Illinois. Construction on the federal portion of the road began in 1811 and reached the Ohio River Valley at Wheeling, Virginia in 1818.
Questions for Image 1
- What were “roads” in the 1800s primarily made of?
- How were wagons and stagecoaches transported across these early roads?
- What problem(s) could someone traveling on this road face?