How do we get from one place to another, other than by walking? By transportation we go!
In the early years of the United States of America, people conveyed their goods and themselves using horse power and other carriage pack animals. Riverboats carried freight across the waterways and steered through
man-made canals, while ocean going vessels traveled to ports of call on other continents.


                   In the eighteenth century, British inventors harnessed water’s power in the form of “steam pressure force,” and applied the “steam engines” to textile machinery, shipbuilding, and blast furnaces for iron production. In America, entrepreneurs relied upon water wheels to power the simple mechanical steps of manufacturing textiles and grains from raw materials. By the 1850s, steam-driven technologies had quickened the pace of production and freed businesses from having to locate their plants along water routes. Innovations hastened new industry growth in environs that offered resource rich harvests in cotton, wheat, and timber; and mineral deposits, including coal, were discovered and developed. Improved transportation was vital for bringing the raw materials to mill towns for processing and moving finished goods to the markets.


                   The construction boom was underway nation-wide to replace old roads and canals with a
rapid-moving, interconnected network capable of transporting high volumes and heavy loads. New canals, steamships, transoceanic ships of sail, roads, bridges, and railroads met the criteria. The Erie Canal was renovated for enlargement over a thirty year period. The U.S. transcontinental railroad was completed in 1869. Steel rails were desired for strength and durability, and low costs of fabrication by the revolutionary Bessemer process helped to make steel a mass production business. More than 2,000 turnpike roads served as inter-connectors to other means of transport. American cities invested in public transit to alleviate ever-increasing distances between workplace and residence. The inter-urban and long-distance railways moved freight to and from the industrial towns and cities, in addition to providing carriage service to workforce commuters and the traveling public. Steam-driven elevated trains came into wide use, followed by electric powered cable cars, streetcars, trolleys, and trains. Boston introduced the “T” underground subway in 1897, and New York City followed in October 1904, with nine miles of subway track, open to all comers.


                   Electrical energy, the internal combustion engine, and metal alloys led the twentieth century technologies of transportation. Gasoline fueled engines which utilize “intermittent” combustion cycles are the dominant power supply for cars, aircraft, and boats. Car makers in 1901 fitted engines to custom frames and sold them as “automobile machines for personal transport.” The age of flight was initiated with the 1903 Flyer—a hand-built invention bolted to a gasoline fueled engine and launched 120 feet in the air by the Wright brothers. The scientific advances continued by way of “continuous combustion” engines such as gas turbines, jet engines and rockets. The United States government had flight-tested rocket engines successfully by 1946, as part of its U.S. X-Plane Program, and within a year, a rocket powered X1 aircraft broke the sound barrier. A satellite named Explorer I was launched into Earth’s orbit in 1958, and not long afterwards, a Saturn V rocket blasted the Apollo 11 spacecraft into outer space, taking three American astronauts into the moon’s orbit. On July 20, 1969, two of the astronauts descended in a lunar craft to the moon’s surface. Everyone returned to Earth safely. The Space Shuttle missions furthered America’s transportation odyssey in space. Enterprise was the first test orbiter and it flew only within Earth’s atmosphere. Space shuttle Columbia flew 28 missions from 1981 to 2003.

Joanne Wasserman is a professional painting, drawing, and calligraphy artist and graphic designer. More of her works can be seen at


  1. Christopher Cook

    Done in pencils?

  2. Dear Christopher,
    No, not pencil, but black watercolor paint–ivory black, applied with a brush and my calligraphy pens–the straight, dipping, old fashioned ones. Thanks for asking. Joanne

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