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Responding to Relative Decline: The Plank Road Boom of Antebellum New York

  • John Majewski (a1), Christopher Baer (a2) and Daniel B. Klein (a3)

From 1847 to 1853 New Yorkers built more than 3,500 miles of wooden roads. Financed primarily by residents of declining rural townships, plank roads were seen as a means of linking isolated areas to the canal and railroad network. A broad range of individuals invested in the roads, suggesting that the drive for bigger markets was supported by a large cross section of the population. Considerable community spirit animated the movement, indicating that New Yorkers used the social capital of the community to reach their entrepreneurial aspirations.

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Lee Benson , Merchants, Farmers, and Railroads (Cambridge, 1955).

James A. Henretta , “Families and Farms: Mentalité in Pre-Industrial America,” William and Mary Quarterly, 35 (1978), pp. 332.

Daniel B. Klein , “Voluntary Provision of a Public Good? The Turnpikes of Early America,” Economic Inquiry, 28 (1990), pp. 788812.

Daniel B. Klein , and John Majewski , “Economy, Community, and Law: The Turnpike Movement in New York, 1797–1845,” Law and Society Review, 26 (1992), pp. 469512.

Allan Kulikoff , “The Transition to Capitalism in Rural America,” William and Mary Quarterly, 46 (1989), pp. 120–44.

Harry H. Pierce , Railroads of New York: A Study of Government Aid, 1826–1875 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1953).

Harry N. Scheiber , “Federalism and American Economic Order, 1789–1910,” Law and Society Review, 10 (1975), pp. 57118.

Philip L. White , Beekmantown, New York: Forest Frontier to Farm Community (Austin, TX, 1979).

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The Journal of Economic History
  • ISSN: 0022-0507
  • EISSN: 1471-6372
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-economic-history
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