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The Irish on the Erie Canal Exhibit


From the early 17th century to the end of the 20th century, approximately seven million Irish men and women came to North America. Perhaps no other topic in their immigrant history better illustrates Irish America’s changing face than that of the Erie Canal. In fact, the Erie Canal may be seen as a microcosm of Irish America - the ethnic group’s experiences along its route closely paralleling those of the Irish across the nation. From politicians to surveyors, engineers to contractors, laborers to boatmen, more than any other group, the Irish embodied the complete story of the Erie Canal. The Irish were involved from start to finish, from originally proposing the concept a hundred years before a shovel was even put into the ground, to the routing, to its design, to securing support from elected officials, to the elected officials themselves, to its construction and finally to its navigation and transportation services once it opened. This exhibition describes the Irish on the Erie Canal.