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Whitbeck, R. H., 1871-1939 (Ray Hughes) / The geography and economic development of southeastern Wisconsin

Chapter IV. The influence of Lake Michigan,   pp. 30-40 PDF (2.3 MB)

Page 30

Along its whole eastern boundary Wisconsin faces on Lake
Michigan, a link in the most important inland waterway in
North America and perhaps in the world. To be situated
upon such a waterway gives to any state or provinee important
commercial advantages. As a rule, transportation on such a
waterway is the least expensive of all forms of transportation
except that on the sea. For example, lake boats bring coal
from ports on Lake Erie to Milwaukee for 50 to 70 cents a ton.
and at times in the past for 35 cents a ton. The distance is
nearly a thousand miles; at 50 cents a ton the cost of thus
transporting coal is only 1/20 of a cent per ton-mile, while
the rail rate from Buffalo to Milwaukee is at least five times
as much.
Each year Wisconsin uses hundreds of thousands of tons of
coal which comes by way of the lakes, for the cost of bringing
eastern coal to Wisconsin by rail is nearly prohibitive.
Even with the great advantage of lake transportation, an-
thracite coal costs the consumers in Wisconsn from 16 to 20
dollars a ton. Few people in the state would feel that they
could afford anthracite coal if it cost very much more than it
now costs.
This is one illustration of the advantage which Wisconsin
possesses in facing on the Great Lakes. This advantage of
cheap transportation extends also to other commodities which
enter and leave the state. Lake transportation was still more
important in the past when great quantities of lumber and
wheat were shipped by lake boats. Water transportation is
best adapted to heavy and bulky commodities, which are
transported overland only at high cost. Lake transportation
was the most important factor in building up the early in-
dustries of the lake shore counties; and the growth of indus-
tries causes the growth of other forms of business, which in
turn, increases population and wealth.

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