If you think tolls are a recent phenomenon, guess again.
They were around even when wagons, horses, and sleds plied the roads,
as this early 19th-century sign suggests.
Road conditions worsened during the economic depression
that followed the Revolutionary War. Strapped for cash, states turned
to privately owned and state-chartered turnpike companies to create and
care for vital transportation routes. The first privately owned and maintained
toll road opened in Pennsylvania in 1796; in New Jersey, the Morris Turnpike
Co. was the first to be chartered (1801). It ran from Elizabeth through
Morris and Sussex counties to the Delaware River at Milford, Pennsylvania.
By the 1830s the first turnpike age was ending, as railroads and canals
became a more economical means of transporting people and goods. Early
turnpike routes, though, would later provide the basis for the network
of automobile highways that eventually criss-crossed the state.