Construction began heading west in 1811 at Cumberland, Maryland, on the Potomac River. It crossed the Allegheny Mountains and southwestern Pennsylvania, reaching Wheeling, Virginia (now West Virginia), on the Ohio River in 1818. Plans were made to continue through St. Louis, at the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, and then to Jefferson City upstream on the Missouri River.
The original route of the National Road would have taken it near Columbus, Indiana, however, Indiana Congressman Oliver H. Smith successfully lobbied to change its path through Indianapolis. The road first moved into Indiana through Wayne County in 1827 and in 1831 there was an appropriation of $75,000 for work that included the bridge over the White River in Indianapolis making this quite possibly the location for the first ancestor of Indiana's beloved covered bridges. In early Indiana history, while the road was winding its way across the state and country, much of Indiana had not been divided into counties.
The National Road became "Main Street" for many small Illinois towns built along its unpaved path during the early 1800s. The route from the Indiana line to Vandalia, approximately 89 miles long was surveyed in 1827. In 1830 Congress appropriated $40,000 for opening and grading the Illinois section. Additional money was granted each year thereafter but was limited to clearing, grading, and bridging. Construction problems and corrupt practices resulted in the project's being placed under the Army Corps of Engineers in 1834.
|National Road construction through Marshall Illinois.|
|History Museum in Vandalia, Illinois.|
People often used the National Road for vacations and for a brief time families would camp alongside the road just for fun or if they could not afford to lodge. The new road did benefit St. Louis, Missouri, which became known as the Gateway to the West.
Although it was still being used, the National Road was not as prominent as it might have been because around 1960 a wider interstate highway system was being built to provide a more direct route. Activity began to slow down and the individual cities dropped into a small-town lifestyle.
The National Road influenced the culture of many small towns and encouraged the building of towns along with it. It helped revolutionize the interstate highway system and established a more sophisticated way of constructing major roads and highways. Even though small towns along the National Road were not transformed into bustling urban cities, they are home to many people. The National Road will always have an important place and a significant role in the history of Illinois transportation.
The National Road was also known the National Old Trails Road. Today, much of the alignment is followed by U.S. 40 (I-64). The full road, including extensions east to Baltimore and west to St. Louis, was designated "The Historic National Road, an All-American Road" in 2002.
Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D.
 The Panic of 1837 was a financial crisis or market correction in the United States built on a speculative fever. The end of the Second Bank of the United States had produced a period of runaway inflation, but on May 10, 1837, in New York City, every bank began to accept payment only in specie (gold and silver coinage), forcing a dramatic, deflationary backlash. This was based on the assumption by the former president, Andrew Jackson, that the government was selling land for state banknotes of questionable value. The Panic was followed by a seven-year depression, with the failure of banks and then-record-high unemployment levels.
 Macadam (John Loudon McAdam) is a type of road construction pioneered by Scottish engineer John Loudon McAdam in around 1820. The method simplified what had been considered state of the art at that point. Single-sized aggregate layers of small stones, with a coating of the binder as a cementing agent, are mixed in an open-structured roadway. With the advent of motor vehicles, dust became a serious problem on macadam roads. The area of low air pressure created under fast-moving vehicles sucks dust from the road surface, creating dust clouds and a gradual unraveling of the road material. This problem was approached by spraying tar on the surface to create tar-bound macadam. A more durable road surface, modern mixed asphalt pavement, sometimes referred to in the US as blacktop, was introduced in the 1920s.