Saturday, March 22, 2008

Inclined Plane

to Ted Belsky ,
cc Robert Judge ,
Hagopian Roger & Linda ,
Gerber Bill
date Mon, Apr 28, 2008 at 6:04 PM
subject Re: South Hadley Inclined Plane

hide details 4/28/08


Hello Ted Belsky and Lyn Pickle,

It is Roger Hagopian and I who would like to meet with you. As a trial proposal, it would be convenient for us to do so on the afternoon of May 1st; would this work for you. Tentatively, Roger and I would make a pass by Turner's Falls in the AM and then beat our way to South Hadley to meet with you in the afternoon.

I'm retired, and thus pretty flexible; Roger runs his own business, and so we sometimes do research trips based upon his work schedule.

A little background -- Roger and I are both on the Board of Directors of the Middlesex Canal Association. Roger has been making videos (published on CD and/or DVD) on several topics, the Middlesex Canal among them. For several years, Roger and I have led bi-annual walks along sections of the M'sex that have been attended by from 4 to 40+ people, depending upon weather, etc. Both of us know the history of the M'sex fairly well.

I've recently agreed to do the copy editing of Towpath Topics, the newsletter of the M'sex Canal Ass'n. A copy of the most recent issue is attached. I'm also on the board of the American Canal Society, which has a bit more to do with my interest in the SH Inclined Plane.

For a very long time, I've been researching the canals of the Merrimack River and promoting research into the several other canals peripheral to the M'sex. From this, I've finally come to the realization that, by 1815, people in eastern MA and south-central NH were operating over 120 miles of canals and navigable waterways. From a legal point of view, this effort began in 1792, with the first segment (the Merrimack, from the NH border to tidewater, effectively opening in 1797. The 120+ mile "network" was constructed by, literally and collaboratively, a dozen private, independently financed companies. Also, if not the birthplace for the concept for a towboat, this local "network" was certainly the site of its development. (I can document five generations of towboat development, at least nine boats, and suspect there is more that I've not yet found. Two boats were unsuccessful, three of them were used on the M'mack River by the M'mack Boating Company, the principal shipper.) This, I believe, is a considerably different perspective on the canal "network" than one gets if one begins by focusing on the M'sex, and it is one I've attempted to convey to others.

As with many canal societies, members of the MCA seem to believe that their canal was the first, the most ambitious, the greatest, etc. A few of us are aware that, in 1808, the M'sex was declared the "greatest" by Albert Gallatin, as part of a national survey; but we also know that it was not the first - the opening of the South Hadley, Pawtucket, and the Cooper and Santee Canals all predate the M'sex. (We've tried to gently inform our colleagues of this! It has not been easy.)

I will forward your message to Ted Belsky and Ken Williamson of the South Hadley Historical Society. They are most familiar with the history, mechanics, and literature of the inclined plane. I bet you will hear from one or both of them soon.


Bob Judge
South Hadley Historical Society

From: wegerber
Date: March 22, 2008 3:01:43 PM EDT
Subject: South Hadley Inclined Plane


Can you tell me the provenance of the drawing at ? Are there any more detailed records of the origins of the design or descriptions of how the plane worked?

Can you tell me if the plane has ever been written up and published in American Canals, the quarterly newsletter of the American Canal Society?


Bill Gerber

1 comment:

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