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Koeppel (Water for Gotham) cites two main reasons for writing another book on the Erie Canal: to disabuse readers of false notions that have gained acceptance through repetition and to highlight previously underplayed personalities. He underlines the significance of Jesse Hawley, whose newspaper essays under the pseudonym "Hercules" conceived of and promoted the canal, and Andrew Bartow, the overlooked developer of hydraulic cement, which can harden properly under water. We learn that canal surveyor Joseph Elliott standardized the foot as a national measurement, that a faction sought an Ontario Canal rather than one leading to Lake Erie, and that Buffalo's selection as the western terminus helped revive that city after its destruction during the War of 1812. Koeppel highlights the role of the canal engineers and notes the high death toll among the workers and surveyors, and he reminds readers of the canal's importance in transporting people as well as goods. This lucid and colorfully written narrative is recommended for libraries that do not already have Peter L. Bernstein's Wedding of the Waters: The Erie Canal and the Making of a Great Nation or that want to expand their holdings in 19th-century technological and New York State history.
—Frederick J. Augustyn Jr.