Stefan Bielinski

This page provides access to expositions on the theme of Transportation in early Albany. As an essential element of the community's service economy, our discussion of it will be divided into two basic sections - one considering transportation problems and issues in this early American city, and the second describing the elements of transportation and its Albany-based practitioners!

Water: Located on the bank of the Hudson River and near the head of ocean going navigation, Albany's success rested on its location and revolved around the ability of its business leaders to transport cargoes on terms advantageous to their interests. Key terms in this section are: Owners/investors, skippers, sailors, pilots, passengers, dockworkers, boat builders, ropemakers, sailmakers, and all other people involved in water-based operation. This essay considers the roles of some of them.

Robert Fulton's steamboat and the opening of the Erie and Champlain canals revolutionized Albany's waterbased transportation during the early nineteenth century. Innovations such as steam-powered boats, trains, and machinery are halmarks of the Industrial Revolution and indicators of the passing of Albany's initial settlement stage. The life of Samuel Schuyler is of particular interest here.

Overland: Even the core streets of early Albany were quite primative with no real paving occurring until the end of the pre-industrial era. In the face-to-face city, community people walked to most Albany destinations. A comparatively small number of residents owned horses. Some owned other draught animals. These were hitched to wagons, carts, and carriages, and in winter to sleighs. Carriages and pleasure sleighs were reserved for the wealthier memebers of the community.
The city government sought to regulate wheeled vehicles within the stockade. As early as the 1690s, a porter was empowered to make deliveries on foot around the city. In 1697, John Radcliff was the city porter.

In 1676, Cornelis Vanderhoven was appointed city carter. From then on, references to carters and "cartmen" appear (although not comprehensively) in the city records. In 1815, seventy-nine cartmen were named in the city directory. Five of them were specifically obliged to remove dirt from city streets. Twelve cartmen lived on Fox Street. Another dozen cartmen lived on the streets adjoining Fox.

Wagonners were not licensed but were numerous although mostly not a full-time occupation. Generally speaking, they hauled freight to and from Albany. In 1756, the census of householders listed three "waggonners."

Roads connecting Albany with its hinterland were even more primative. These were transversed seasonally by wagons and sleighs, on horseback, and on foot. The so-called King's Highway from Albany to Schenectady was a path through the pine barrens that was unmaintained until the 1760s when Bastian T. Visscher was contracted to repair a portion of the road.

After the Revolution, stage coaches ran from Albany to other locations. The stage connection to New York City was established in 1785. The stage office was located on the corner of State and Green streets.

During the period, 1790-1820, George Archer and his sons were prominent teamsters.


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first posted 12/10/02; revised 1/12/11