A bridge across the Hudson at or near Poughkeepsie was planned starting in the early 1870s to primarily carry coal from the coalfields of northeastern Pennsylvania to New England. At the time there were no bridges between Albany and New York Harbor. Horatio Allen, soon to be President of the ASCE, was its first Chief Engineer. He designed a multiple span suspension bridge. Later the American Bridge Company started construction on a five span bridge but went bankrupt before it completed the first pier foundations.
In its day, the famous Erie Canal was the world's longest canal and America's greatest engineering feat. It was the principal route for emigrants from the East and agricultural products from the West. Before construction of the canal, New York City was the nation's fifth largest seaport, behind Boston, Baltimore, Philadelphia and New Orleans. Within 15 years of its opening, New York was the busiest port in America, moving tonnages greater than Boston, Baltimore and New Orleans combined.