Bandboxes, such as the one I wrote about earlier this month, were widely used in the first half of the 19th century and were precursors to the modern shopping bag. The decorative papers that covered bandbox exteriors were usually very crudely printed with just a few colors and often closely resemble folk art.

This bandbox features a section of the Erie (or “Grand”) Canal—specifically, Little Falls, New York, a town on the Mohawk River near Utica. The brick structure is the Aqueduct Bridge, which raised the canal 30 feet over the river to allow uninterrupted transportation. The green pigment used for the trees and grass was covered with varnish to help stabilize the fugitive color and prevent fading from exposure to light.

The Erie Canal was the engineering marvel of its day. It created a water route from the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes, facilitating transportation and bringing produce from the West to the docks of New York. First proposed in 1807, construction on the canal began ten years later. The canal opened on October 26, 1825.

The Erie Canal opened 187 years ago today.

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