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After America won its war for independence, New York developed a flourishing
economy based upon invention, transportation, industry and manufacturing. Many
technologies associated with the industrial revolution in America were first
implemented in New York. For example, the first steam-powered boats and trains
got their start in New York in 1807 and 1831 respectively.
Railroads were first introduced in New York State with construction of the Mohawk and Hudson Railroad. This mechanized travel arrived less than 10 years after construction of the Erie Canal began in 1817. Railroads would forever change the face of travel in the 19th Century just as the automobile and New York State Thruway changed travel in the 20th Century. While the Erie Canal spearheaded westward development in the state and nation, it was the railroads that brought the biggest shift of people and goods westward in the years that followed. Other early New York State railroads, including the Utica and Schenectady, built in 1836, and the Syracuse and Auburn Railroad built in 1837, broadened the impact of rail transport on the region.
Upstate New York has been the setting for inventions and businesses of international significance. The abundance of water power and the advent of canal and rail transportation provided nineteenth century Upstate New York entrepreneurs with the means to power factories and send their products to market. The various modes of transportation, particularly the Erie Canal, New York Central Railroad, and the Erie Railroad, gave New Yorkers great access to markets for their products and the natural resources of the State. Combining those assets with the wealth generated and invested into industrial pursuits, New York State lead the nation in manufacturing from 1840 to 1960.