During the 19th and early 20th centuries, transportation systems and infrastructure emerged in Massachusetts, starting with canals, followed by the development of railroads and harbors and finally the laying out of highways. The State Library of Massachusetts has recently digitized Massachusetts state documents and other material in its collection related to the development of transportation systems in the state during the 19th and early 20th centuries. These materials include maps, manuscripts, photographs, annual reports and hearings.

Canals and Hoosac Tunnel

During the height of canals in the early 19th century, proposals were made in the Massachusetts legislature to create canals between the Hudson River and Boston. The largest obstacle was the Hoosac Mountain range. In the 1850s, a tunnel was again proposed, this time as a railroad tunnel to cross these mountains. The maps, photographs and reports in this collection document these projects




Railroad lines were built in Massachusetts beginning in the 1820s. The digitized items in this collection include manuscript maps and other documents of proposed railroad lines, as well as railroad commission annual reports.




Until the early 1890s, roadways in Massachusetts were maintained by local authorities. This digital collection includes photographs of the condition of roads in 1892, as well as reports from the Massachusetts Highway Commission documenting the development of state highways starting in 1893.



Water and Land Development

In the later half of the 19th century, a number of reclamation projects were completed and improvements made to harbors throughout the state. This collection includes maps and documents related to this work, as well as atlases produced by the Massachusetts Board of Land and Harbor Commissioners showing boundaries between the state's towns and cities.



 Funded by:

This project is supported by the Institute of Museum and Library Services under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act as administered by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners.