Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 51.djvu/81

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IN the course of time there have been many changes in the method of transporting merchandise from town to town and from one country to another. Here, as in everything else, we see the gradual evolution of transportation, at first by man or beast, and finally by steam and electricity. Early man used himself as a beast of burden, and finally the ox and other animals were made to do service in his stead. With every improvement in method came a wider and wider range of trade and its consequent benefits. Efforts to improve the means of transportation resulted in the early invention of carriage by water. Hence we see the maritime peoples were the first to attain any considerable commercial prominence.

At the time this country was settled the lack of adequate means of moving commodities, excepting by water, led to the settlement of lands bordering the ocean, streams, and lakes, while equally good lands, not in close vicinity to water, offered but little attraction to the settler. Gradually the frontier was pushed farther westward; the narrow and obscure Indian trails were transformed into paths for horses and eventually became carriage roads. Before the railroad was devised public roads that possessed any claims to excellence were limited to the more populous States bordering the Atlantic coast. It is without doubt true that, had not transportation by rail been invented until the present time, the public roads of this country would be in a far more satisfactory condition than we find them to-day. With the advent of the locomotive came the withdrawal of active interest in the character of our highways. All the energies of our people were devoted to extending and perfecting the vast network of railroads that cross and recross the United States. Railway construction has now reached an equation of demand and supply, and we once again see the Commonwealths awakening to the importance of good roads, many communities vying with one another in their efforts to lead the States and earn a reputation for the excellent character of their highways.

The natural conservatism of the farming element of our people has been a difficult feature of the problem of arousing public interest in better roads to overcome in the past. The farmer has had but few object lessons in what a road should be. Adding to this the objections he has to an increase of taxation, we perceive the difficulties that stand in the way of educating the people up to the point of appreciating the numerous advantages that would accrue to them with a system of highways properly constructed