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ILLINOIS STATE ARCHIVES


The Illinois and Michigan Canal, 1827–1911

A Selection of Documents from the Illinois State Archives


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DOCUMENT 25
LETTER FROM ROBERT STUART TO DAVID LEAVITT CONCERNING ACCOUNTS AND THE CANAL'S OPENING
April 10, 1848




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Explanation

As indicated in this document the canal was opened on April 10, 1848. On that day the canal boat General Fry, towed by the propeller A. Rossiter, arrived in Chicago from Lockport. Mayor James Woodworth offered an official welcome and grain merchant Charles Walker gave a stirring oration at the point where the canal entered the Chicago River at Bridgeport. As the Lockport delegation passed under bridges spanning the South Branch they were cheered from above by thousands of excited well-wishers.

A formal opening ceremony was held on April 16 at which time a grand fete was staged. And on April 24 the General Thornton arrived at Chicago from La Salle. Its cargo consisted of sugar brought up the Mississippi River from New Orleans. This freight was off-loaded onto the steamer Louisiana. This vessel plied Lakes Michigan, Huron, and Erie, reaching Buffalo on April 30. By the end of July more than seventy canal boats were operating along the La Salle to Chicago line and demand created the need for more still. Eastern manufactured goods and lumber from the shores of the Great Lakes were the most common articles shipped west along the canal. Agricultural products from the Illinois River valley were the principal goods sent east.

David Leavitt was president of the American Exchange Bank of New York City and one of the two canal trustees elected by subscribers to the $1,600,000 loan floated to complete the canal. I and M revenues were deposited in his bank which in turn issued drafts on the canal's account. Robert Stuart was the canal trustees' full-time secretary and he was based at Chicago. The trustees next met on April 22 in Chicago.

"N.B." is an abbreviation for "nota bene." "Note well" is the translation from Latin.

For a map of the completed canal route, see Exhibit A.

Points to Consider

What were numbers 751, 752, and 753?
What does "N.B." mean?
Why was Leavitt being asked to clear up accounting errors quickly?
What was the most significant news conveyed in this document?


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