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Map of New Jersey and Pennsylvania Exhibiting the Post Offices, Post Roads, Canals, Rail Roads, &c., by David H. Burr, 1839

Technological advances in the nineteenth century helped build a transportation network vital to the nation’s growth and unity. Canals traversed unnavigable portions of rivers and coastal waterways while steam engines powered boats and trains.

Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress

Map of New Jersey and Pennsylvania Exhibiting the Post Offices, Post Roads, Canals, Rail Roads, &c., by David H. Burr, 1839

Post Roads

Post roads, so called because mail was carried over them, date to colonial times. They were the major land routes linking towns. So vital were these links that both houses of Congress established a Committee on Post Offices and Post Roads as one of their first standing committees. As mail was the only means of long-distance communication until the invention of the telegraph in the 1840s, the speed of mail delivery affected every citizen.