The Erie Canal was truly, as several historians have said, America’s first school of engineering. These hard-working laborers and self-educated engineers perfectly illustrate the frontier spirit, trusting in hard work and common sense to meet the challenge of America’s first great civil engineering project.

By profiling several upstate New York persons who literally walked off their farm fields to work on the canal, and went on to became national figures in civil engineering and canal construction, inspiration is given for any aspiration.