11. Post and Paul Map of Proposed Illinois and Michigan Canal Route (1824)

Background: As early as the first European exploration of the Illinois country in 1673, explorers Louis Joliet and Father Jacques Marquette saw the value of a canal connecting the Illinois River to Lake Michigan. Under the terms of an Act of Congress on March 30, 1822, the federal government granted land to the State of Illinois on which to construct a canal from the mouth of the Chicago River to a point on the Illinois River. The General Assembly then appointed a commission to determine the most feasible route for the proposed canal. In 1824, two civil engineers, Justus Post and Rene Paul, surveyed the proposed route. After years of delays, construction on the Illinois and Michigan Canal began in July of 1836 and continued through a series of funding difficulties before finally opening to navigation in April 1848. Funding for the canal came from tolls and from government land sales in new towns along the canal corridor such as Chicago and Ottawa.

The Document: The "Map of the part of the State of Illinois through which is contemplated to construct a Canal" shows the general area of the canal corridor and denotes the proposed canal route as first surveyed in 1824. Upon its completion, the Illinois and Michigan Canal joined the Chicago River at Bridgeport in Chicago with the Illinois River at LaSalle, 96 miles distant. The canal provided a direct water link between the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River and helped make Chicago a transportation and economic hub of the nation. Over time railroads provided a more efficient means of transporting goods and passengers, and canal traffic declined. Subsequent construction of the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal and the Illinois Waterway led to the cessation of operations in 1933.

Note: The Illinois and Michigan Canal was successful enough that its construction debt was paid off in 1871, one of the few canals in the country to do so. This map is available at the Illinois State Archives as part of the Illinois and Michigan Canal Record Series 491.106, "Engineering Drawings and Profile Maps."