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tv   Historic National Road  CSPAN  January 24, 2015 5:50pm-6:01pm EST

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and let us know what you think about the programs you are watching. call us, e-mail us, or send us a tweet. join the c-span conversation. like us on a book. follow us on twitter. >> this year c-span is touring cities across the country exploring american history. next, a look at our recent visit to wheeling, west virginia. you are watching american history tv, all weekend, every weekend, on c-span3. ♪ >> the first project funded by
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the federal government for road production was the national road that extended from cumberland, maryland, to wheeling, virginia. and one of the reasons for that was ohio had become a state in 1803. the country was moving west. we need to find a way of tying these new western areas in with the capital. and the easiest way of doing that in the early 19th century was to put in a road. so that road will eventually extend from baltimore westward into cumberland, maryland, uniontown, washington, pa, and then in 1818 it comes here to wheeling. when it comes here to wheeling that will give this community which at that time is about 50 years old -- it gives it the real spurt it needs to grow. over the next 20 to 25 years the population of wheeling will
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almost triple. wheeling starts as an outpost on the frontier. that river was the western extent of the united states in the 1770's. it's going to be a very small community. most of the buildings will be made out of logs and some kind of lumber. as we move into the 19th century and people move west, wheeling will start to grow because this is what some people would refer to as a jumping off point to travel to ohio and indiana and illinois and so forth. that is why the national road is going to end up this way. as more and more people come into the area, then the community will move up and down the river.
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it will start to expand. the center of it is about where we are right now, but as you move through the 19th century, the town extends to the south, extends to the north, and as it grows, it will be made out of brick. by the mid-century there will be a couple buildings here made out of stone. what that reflects is that the community is becoming wealthier. the national road makes its terminus here on the ohio river. why here? several reasons that wheeling had to its advantage. this is a floodplain here. it has an island at its basin. -- island adjacent. as a consequence, you have this good place for river transport. the town also is old enough that it has some connections to people back in washington.
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if you look at a map and draw lines west from cumberland, you will realize the national road does not follow those lines. it goes north to uniontown because the secretary of the treasury in the jefferson administration, guess where he went? uniontown. so it goes there. then it runs to washington. established town. the national road, when it comes in to wheeling in 1818, you have to remember that ohio was all ready -- already a state. it had been a state for 15 years. illinois and indiana are states by this time. what this road does is it facilitates the movement of people, but it facilitates the movement of goods to the west. ohio, by the time of the civil
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war, will become the fourth largest state in the union, ok? when people move west, they need a house to live in. if you look at all of the structures from ohio to the mississippi, it is estimated 50% of those houses were put together with nails made in wheeling. you put them on the national road and you send them west. we have records of wagon trains headed west with nails, that might have 20 or 30 wagons in a line going west. from 1830 until about 1890 wheeling itself will reduce about 50 million cakes of nails -- kegs of nails. this is nailed city.
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the suspension bridge was put up in 1889. it is the largest suspension bridge in the country. it is still a technological marvel. it brings together scientists and historians, people interested in engineering, because of the way it is made. it was built so it could accommodate steamboats, that they could go underneath. this predated the brooklyn bridge by about 35 years. one of the ways i like to describe it is wheeling is like a funnel, and we are a small part of the funnel, and the funnel is the bridge. you have that big heart and -- that big part and if you want to get across the river, you want to do it easily. you come into wheeling where you can cross the bridge, and then
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you can go west from there. what makes a city like wheeling grow is the transportation developments, whether it is the steamboat or the national road or a bridge, and later the casino railroad. -- be a no railroad -- b&o railroad. because of that transportation because the transportation declines, the ability of people to drive it increases. so you have a furthering of the entrepreneurial spirit. you cannot understand wheeling unless you understand the role the national road plays. this community would not have developed as fast as it did if the roads were not here. i have spent i don't know how many days traveling that national road from wheeling to cumberland. when i go visit family in northern virginia, i seldom take
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the interstate. it's not very interesting. but to go on that national ro ad, and having seen photographs of it from the 19th century and to appreciate the fact you are on that road that was put in 150 years ago, 170 years ago, and it is fascinating. you know, if you are into history as i am, why wouldn't you want to travel some historic place? in terms of roads, there's not too many more roads that are as historic as this one. ♪ >> find out where c-span's local content vehicles are going next online at
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/localcontent. you are watching american history tv, all weekend, every weekend, on c-span3. >> you are watching american history tv, all weekend, every weekend, on c-span3. to join the conversation, like us on facebook. >> and >> harvard professor john stauffer talks about "the battle hymn of the republic." he calls the original as a full him appropriated by union soldiers as the marching song "john brown's body ergo well this version was more popular during the civil war, julia ward howe's "battle hymn of the republic" has had a longer impact on the american consciousness.
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>> for those of you who heard me speak yesterday i focused on the transformation of culture from the civil war. it is a theme i want to continue today, but from a very different angle. i will talk about the continuity as a way to highlight the transformation. yesterday, one of the things i did was to compare certain texts like "uncle tom's cabin," as a framework exploring some of the themes of the displacement of god, the masculinization, a fix of the transformation of culture following the civil war, with rebecca harding davis, mark twain, and frederick douglass. today, what i want to do is start out telling a story, and i want to do it with one work of literature that you all know.


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