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Erie Canal Viaduct

Broad Street
Rochester, NY, US

Category: Union Workplace

Used in the following map:

Rochester Labor History eMap

The Erie Canal traversed the Genesee River on an aqueduct which, when it was completed in September 1823, was the longest stone bridge in America. Work on the project was undertaken with convict labor, authorized by special act of the State Legislature to be brought from the prison at Auburn. Though all the convicts escaped, the Canal opened on October 26, 1825 and quickly became a major transportation artery. A new and wider aqueduct was completed in 1842, permitting two-way crossing. Canal workers formed Rochester's earliest labor organizations: the Boatman's Mutual Relief Society and the Caulkers Society were founded in 1830 and 1831 respectively. Canal workers waged largely unsuccessful strikes in 1837, 1851, 1855, 1859, 1869, and 1871. The canal route through downtown Rochester was abandoned in 1919 in favor of the Barge Canal loop south of the city; the bypass, begun in 1905 with immigrant Italian labor, was completed in 1920.


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