Bond of Union: Building the Erie Canal and the American Empire
Da Capo Press, 2009
464 pages
Hardcover, 978-0306818271
Paperback, 978-0306818622


Conceived in the early 1800s and completed in 1825, the Erie Canal was the boldest and biggest American engineering project of its century, with enduring political, social, and economic effect. It was the Erie Canal that first opened the West to American enterprise and imagination, bringing vast riches and a far-reaching vision to a rapidly expanding America.

Bond of Union tells the complete, sweeping story of the creation of the Erie Canal, and of the memorable characters who turned a visionary plan into a successful venture. It traces the canal’s history from its proposal in 1807 by Jesse Hawley, a western New York grain merchant in debtors’ prison who wrote a series of newspaper essays about the need for the waterway, to the its completion eighteen years later when it connected a seaboard nation to its vast continental interior. Joining the Great Lakes at Buffalo to the Hudson River at Albany and to the Atlantic Ocean, the canal bound east to west, establishing New York City as the young nation’s economic engine and New York State as the Empire State.

In his compelling narrative, New York historian Gerard Koeppel unearths major new findings about the construction of the canal and the many surprising twists and turns along the path to completing the enterprise that would change America’s destiny. Bond of Union provides a unique perspective on America’s self-perception as an empire destined to expand from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

”A vivid and compelling work of history.”
— Book-of-the-Month Club, Main Selection

“A sweeping narrative.”
— Kenneth T. Jackson, Jacques Barzun Professor of History at Columbia University

“Bond of Union shines … an engaging narrative”
— Bloomsbury Review

“Lively, well researched … by an author with a real talent for genuine storytelling.”
— Tucson Citizen

“Authoritative and important.”
— Kirkus Reviews

“Every page of this exceptionally well-written and -researched book brings to light and life some story about some previously unknown individual or incident that shaped our present world. Anyone who wants to understand the story of New York and how a single public works project transformed our country should read it.”
— BOB KERREY, president of the New School, former U.S. senator

“Gerard Koeppel’s Bond of Union is a sweeping narrative of the remarkable men who built a waterway and transformed a nation.”
— KENNETH T. JACKSON, Jacques Barzun Professor of History at Columbia
University, director of the Herbert H. Lehman Center for American History, and former president of the Organization of American Historians

“[Koeppel] ably tells the story of the many strong-willed visionaries who helped bring the Erie Canal into being [and] convincingly argues that the canal hastened the birth of America as a continental nation. . . . There is little doubt Koeppel’s history is the most complete and well-researched to date. Authoritative and important.”


Erie: The Canal That Made America
Documentary begins airing  September 12, 2017

The History Channel – H2     VIDEO
United Stuff of America: Ultimate Engineering

Erie_HistoryChannelJournal of the Early Republic – Fall 2011  PDF

Kirkus Reviews – January 2009    PDF

Journal of American History  – December 2009    PDF

The Buffalo News – April 2009     READ
Historian Tracks Legends of Erie Canal

The Economist – 28 February 2009    PDF cspan_screen_BoU

The Detroit Free Press – 15 March 2009    PDF

The Pittsburg Post Gazette – 1 March 2009    PDF

C-SPAN – 24 March 2009    VIDEO