In 1673, Louis Jolliet and Fr. Jacques Marquette were the first Europeans to explore the Mississippi and the Illinois River Valleys. Their explorations took them through what is now northern Illinois. These early explorers of the region recognized the importance of a connection between Lake Michigan and the Illinois waterways. Constructed between 1836 and 1848, the Illinois and Michigan (I&M) Canal began the final link in a national plan to connect different regions of the North American continent via natural and man-made waterways. Once completed in 1848, the nearly 100-mile-long canal created a new transportation corridor that linked the Eastern United States, the Great Lakes, the Mississippi River, and the Gulf of Mexico. During the 19th century, the I&M Canal helped launch Chicago on its path to urban greatness and fostered the growth of a dozen towns along its banks that would soon industrialize the region. This book will open the reader to the unique flavor of the region and the towns and communities along its route, as well as the nature of commerce and water transportation of the 19th and 20th centuries.
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