Historical Markers
Schuylkill Canal Historical Marker
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Schuylkill Canal

Valleys of the Susquehanna


Marker Location:
Pine & Pike Street, Port Carbon

Dedication Date:
September 4, 1994

Behind the Marker

A typical canal boat, built to transport anthracite on the Schuylkill Canal.
Canal boat built to transport anthracite on the Schuylkill Canal, circa 1890....
Without the Schuylkill Navigation Company's Schuykill Canal, the anthracite revolution might never have happened. The "discoveries" of "stone coals" in northeastern Pennsylvania and the various advances in burning anthracite for home and industrial use certainly mattered. However, nothing could have happened in the absence of a reliable, cheaper route to market than going overland. The 108-mile canal directly connected the rich anthracite deposits in Schuylkill County to the city of Philadelphia. The result was astounding. Anthracite coal production increased over 1,000 percent during the first five years of the canal's operations. Tonnage shipped over the canal jumped from about 6,500 in 1825 to nearly 80,000 by 1830.

The canal itself was a combination of man-made waterways and redirected river flow, or "slack-water" pools created by dams along the Schuylkill River. There were over 100 locks along the line. Boats typically required ten minutes to pass through a lock and never exceeded more than 5 mph as they floated along the waterway.

The initial success of the Schuylkill Navigation Company, coupled with intense publicity upon the opening of New York's Erie Canal in 1825, encouraged Pennsylvania's state legislators to accelerate construction of the markerPennsylvania Canal. Designed to connect Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, the Main Line, as the central east-west artery of the canal was called, represented the state's largest financial undertaking to that point.
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