The Erie Canal was a preposterous idea. Even President Thomas Jefferson, usually ahead of his time, believed that it could not be built for at least a century, and yet, the Erie Canal came to be just as its planners had thought it would. For the first time in the history of the United States, a cheap, fast route ran through the Appalachians, the mountains that had so effectively divided the West from the East of early America. With the canal, the country's fertile interior became accessible and its great inland lakes were linked to all the seas of the world. Here, from award-winning historian Ralph K. Andrist, is the canal's dramatic and little-told story.