Today In History
It was simply a matter of keeping up with the Joneses: for years Baltimore had an advantage over other major American seaports (New York, Philadelphia and Charleston, for example) because it was farther inland and therefore closer to the rest of the country. But the opening of the Erie Canal connected New York with the inland, as did the series of canals built by Pennsylvania connecting Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. The city fathers in Charm City mandated the railroad they chartered connect to a suitable point on the Ohio River.
And so it did, becoming the first common-carrier of freight and passengers in the USA.