Traveling during the early years of the 19 century was much more difficult than it is today. Without the benefit of airplanes, journeying abroad from the U.S. was a time consuming process that involved long boat rides across the Atlantic. Technological innovations during the mid 19th century, including the launch of travel by steamship and train, made traveling easier.
Hitting the Old Road
The National Road (Cumberland Road) was the first major improved highway in the U.S. built by the federal government. Originating in Cumberland, Maryland, in 1811, it ran 620 miles west to the Ohio River, and was a gateway to the West for thousands of settlers. When rebuilt in the 1830s, the Cumberland Road became the first U.S. road surfaced with macadam.
Construction of the National Road.
Wind and Steam
The SS Savannah was the first steam-powered ship to cross the Atlantic Ocean. Although the hybrid ship was equipped with a steam engine and two 16-foot paddle wheels, most of the historic voyage was sailed under wind power.
Photograph of a painting of the SS Savannah, 1819, by Hunter Wood. Its historic crossing was made from Savannah, GA, to Liverpool, England.
The Iron Horse
Tom Thumb was the first American-built steam locomotive used on a common-carrier railroad. It was built in 1830 to convince the B&O Railroad to use steam engines. According to legend, the Tom Thumb entered a race with a horse-drawn car. The steam train led the race until a belt slipped off a pulley and the engine lost power. Nonetheless, within the year the railroad committed to steam locomotion.
Legendary race between Tom Thumb and a horse-drawn car in August 1830. Courtesy Of The B&O Railroad Museum.