Series: National Road - America's First Federally Funded Highway

Workers on the National Road
The National Road was built with rocks and gravel broken by hand and laid in trenches.

The National Road was the first highway built entirely with federal funds. The road was authorized by Congress in 1806 during the Jefferson Administration. Construction began in Cumberland, Maryland in 1811. The route closely paralleled the military road opened by George Washington and General Braddock in 1754-55.

By 1818 the road had been completed to the Ohio River at Wheeling, which was then in Virginia. Eventually the road was pushed through central Ohio and Indiana reaching Vandalia, Illinois in the 1830's where construction ceased due to a lack of funds. The National Road opened the Ohio River Valley and the Midwest for settlement and commerce.

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Map of the historic National Road showing the route from Cumberland, in western Maryland, to Vandalia, in southern Illinois
The National Road linked the eastern and western states in the first half of the 19th century, running from Cumberland, Maryland to Vandalia, Illinois.
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Last updated: June 26, 2018