8. The Elaborate Opening Celebration in NYC

Image from New York Public Library

New Yorkers have always known how to throw a party, and few public celebrations rivaled the one marking the opening of the Erie Canal. A flotilla of canal boats had made the trip all the way from Buffalo, carrying dignitaries and samples of inland produce A relay of cannon shots had announced to New York City residents the beginning of the group’s journey on October 26, 1817.

Ten days later, these boats led an  “Aquatic Display” of decorated ships across New York Harbor. The “wedding of the waters” took place amid great ceremony at Sandy Hook as Governor De Witt Clinton poured a cask of Lake Erie water into the ocean. Then came a grand parade around the streets of lower Manhattan, viewed by the largest crowd to gather in North America to that time. A painted cask that held the ceremonial water can be seen in the collection of the New York Historical Society.