For centuries, building and investing in infrastructure was primarily about developing the sinews of economic growth, such as the canals, railroads, highways and ports.
Founding father Benjamin Franklin’s first claim to fame was in 1737 when, as postmaster general of Philadelphia, he earned admiration for improved service through better postal roads, eventually linking Philadelphia mail to New York City with a 24-hour turnaround time.
Soon after Franklin’s efforts, the “canal age” began in the United States, generally considered to be from 1790 through 1855, during which many forms of financing were developed that are still used to this day, entailing debt and equity, as well as paying off backers and financiers through receipts.
After the canal age, the modern-era large-scale water and power grids appeared, as did waste disposal projects. Government and private operators owned assets, but they usually were largely financed through bond issuance.