For thousands of years prior to Henry Hudson's voyage, the Hudson River was a vital commercial and strategic route for the indigenous peoples who settled near its banks. The river's importance continued for centuries afterward, linking the great trading center of Manhattan with remote places upstate and beyond. In Revolutionary times, the successful struggle for the Hudson was key to American victory over the power of the British military. The Hudson River railroad succeeded earlier modes of transportation in the Hudson Valley--the river sloop, the Albany Post Road, the steamboat, and the Erie Canal. The Hudson Line was both an early product of America's industrial age and a catalyst for the intense and complex developments of that age. The advent of photography coincided with the inauguration of the Hudson River railroad, and American photographers were on-hand to witness and record the progress of commerce and community in the villages, towns, and cities along the Hudson River Line.