The Erie Canal, one of the earliest transcendent tales of the American experience and an endeavor first scoffed at as nothing more than a ditch, became the nation's first great technical innovation, a gateway to prominence, and the eighth wonder of the world. This documentary marks the bicentennial of the start of construction of the Erie Canal when surveyors and excavators began linking the young United States' east to its west in 1817 and depicts how a young nation broke through with its first great crusade of ingenuity by willing an impossible-to-build, 363 mile man-made waterway to the American frontier. Once the waters of the Great Lakes were wed with the Atlantic Ocean, the canal helped create what America now knows as the Empire State and propelled New York City into the role of America's leading port and economic hub. But the 200 years of the Erie's existence is more than a New York story. The Erie Canal is a defining saga of immigration and American culture. Farmers and new citizens poured their lives into communities along what was once known as "Clinton's Ditch." We learn how six presidents, including Washington, Jefferson and Theodore Roosevelt, are linked to the canal's destiny; though it would be a wily New York politician, DeWitt Clinton, who championed its construction and ensured that it would become the canal that made America.
Length: 56 minutes