could carry freight in larger volume, more quickly, and more reliably than roads, and they brought much lower transportation costs.
Even as the canals were built, railroads began to overtake them. Railroads could be built where steepterrain or uncertain water supply made canals imprac- tical; and they could provide an integrated nationwide transportation system. Moreover, trains could run all winter and travel faster than mule-drawn canal boats.
The next round belongs to the motorcar, still quite insignificant in the begin- ning of the twentieth century. Only in 1916did the Congresspassan act leading to a national system of highways, which led eventually to masstrucking, offering shippers new flexibility and speed, especially for short hauls. Still later, air freight entered the transportation mix, playing a small but important role for light, high-value shipments. In 1939, railroads carried 62 percent of American freight ton-miles; trucks carried 10percent; 18 percentmoved on the GreatLakes and inland waterways; 10 percent went through pipelines; and 0.002 percentwas carried by air (Bureau of the Census, 1960).
Communicationsystemsmovesymbolsthat containinformationand control signals,as well asexpressionsof sentimentsandvalues.Informationis an im- portantinput for productivedecisionmaking;expeditiousmovemenof control and othersignals, suchas thosefrom headquarterto plants,is vital for large scaleorganizations-national corporations,financial institutions,andmarkets. The communicationof valuesandsentiment is asimportant.Theyhelpbroaden people'shorizonsandloyaltiesfromthe villageto the nation(andultimatelythe world); they also allow public policy makersto gaugewhatthe populacewill support,tolerate, or resist.
Improvedcommunicatio technologiesplayedanessentiapart in theprocess of nationbuilding, aswell asin the transmissio of informationandcontrolsig- nals. Early communicationdependedon slow surfacetransport.The Overland Mail, establishe in the 1850sto provide fast mail andpassengeserviceto the West Coast, pared down the mail-coach trip from the Mississippito San Francisco,but still requiredtwenty-twodays. A decadelater,a messag could travelthe samedistanceby telegraphin a matterof minutes.Inventedin 1836, the telegraphreachedfrom the EastCoastto StLouis by 1848,andspanne the continentin 1861.Towardtheendof the century,thetelephoneadvance com-