On July 4, 1828, President John Quincy Adams turned over a spadeful of dirt during ceremonies at Little Falls, Maryland, and therefore began construction of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal. It was officially the work of the C & O Canal Company, which raised about $3.6 million from private and public investors. Included among its stockholders were the federal government, the states of Maryland and Virginia, and the cities of Washington, Georgetown, and Alexandria; all of them hoped the waterway would bring trade and therefore jobs to the region. As it turned out, events that day would affect the C & O in another way, because it was also on the 4th that work began on America's first railroad, the Baltimore and Ohio (B & O).
The canal was finally completed in 1850 at a total cost of $11 million, the original plan to extend the waterway over the Allegheny Mountains having long since been abandoned. The canal succeeded an earlier venture, led by George Washington, to improve navigation of the Potomac by constructing canals. The C & O was intended, as its name suggests, to connect the Chesapeake Bay to the Ohio River, but it never made it that far.