Lesson Plans: Grades 6-8

The Lesson

Introduction

Anti-slavery poster form the 1850s

Anti-slavery poster form the 1850s

Credit: Courtesy of American Memory

In the decade-and-a-half prior to the Civil War, the United States saw dramatic changes in industrialization in the North, and a rapid increase in transportation (rail and steamship) all over the country. It was also a time when the country was absorbing new territorial acquisitions, and lifestyle differences and attitudes between North and South were becoming more pronounced.

Students interested in extending the comparison between North and South can compare the Northern community of Franklin, Pa., and the Southern community of Augusta, Va., by exploring the documents in the Valley of the Shadow. Both communities were in the greater Shenandoah Valley, yet had pronounced differences as well as some similarities.

Guiding Questions

  • What were some of the important technological innovations and social trends before the start of the Civil War?

Learning Objectives

  • Demonstrate knowledge of life before the Civil War, with an emphasis on differences between the North and South.

Preparation Instructions

The Civil War erupted after a long history of compromises and sectional debates over representation, federalism, tariffs and territories. Though many of the political differences are beyond the scope of the intermediate curriculum, students can use their analysis of archival documents to begin to appreciate the differences between the North and South and the changes afoot in the United States that contributed to the developing conflict.

Before you begin to teach this lesson, review the suggested activities and familiarize yourself with the websites involved. Select, download and duplicate, as necessary, any documents you want the class to use.

Lesson Activities

Activity 1. Life Before the Civil War

In the decade-and-a-half prior to the Civil War, the United States saw dramatic changes in industrialization in the North, and a rapid increase in transportation (rail and steamship) all over the country. It was also a time when the country was absorbing new territorial acquisitions, and lifestyle differences and attitudes between North and South were becoming more pronounced.

Students interested in extending the comparison between North and South can compare the Northern community of Franklin, Pa., and the Southern community of Augusta, Va., by exploring the documents in the Valley of the Shadow. Both communities were in the greater Shenandoah Valley, yet had pronounced differences as well as some similarities.

Compare two wills:

Compare newspaper articles from the two communities:

  • Entrepreneurship: New businesses are developing and many items formerly made at home are now imported from other states and sold in stores.
    • "New Enterprise," Augusta County, VA, September 16, 1859, p. 2, c. 1
      "Messrs. Sicher have opened a new store exclusively for ladies in Staunton. This will allow women, who may now, without being exposed to prying masculine eyes, purchase numberless little unmentionable 'fixins,' which they are shy of calling for at a counter beset with the horrid men." This story reflects female purchasing power if not female liberation.
    • "Ladies' Oyster Saloon," Franklin County, PA, November 30, 1859, p. 5, c. 2
      "Mrs. Susan Seibert has opened up an Oyster Saloon for ladies, directly opposite the courthouse." This story reflects female purchasing power if not female liberation.
    • "Gone Again," Franklin County, PA, May 9, 1860, p. 5, c. 2
      Advertisement: "J. L. Deehert, the Hat man, has gone to New York to lay in a stock of Straw Hats, &c., for Summer wear. Look out for a splendid assortment, in a few days." New York is regarded as the source of goods unobtainable locally.
  • New Technologies Arrive
    • "Lighting Up the Town," Augusta County, VA, July 22, 1859, p. 2, c. 2
      Gas is being introduced to light the city streets.
    • "First of the Season," Augusta County, VA, May 11, 1860, p. 2, c. 6
      The proprietor of the American Hotel was able to get fresh strawberries for his guests. This delicacy will become more common at Staunton hotels now that they can be transported from Richmond in only eight hours. The continuing proliferation of trains is revolutionizing commerce and travel. Richmond is regarded as the source of goods unobtainable locally.
    • "Franklin Railroad," Franklin County, Pa., November 30, 1859, p. 5, c. 1
      Train lines are being built in the Northern countryside.

Students interested in learning more about how people made a living in 1860 can analyze the following images (all are available through the EDSITEment resource American Memory). If desired, search by title to locate a lower resolution image for each.

Students interested in finding out what people did for fun in the 1850's might be interested in the documents in the following list:

Assessment

To culminate this lesson, ask students to demonstrate their knowledge of important technological innovations and social trends before the Civil War, and how they affected daily life in both the North and South. Students with sufficient access to technology can search for additional documents in the EDSITEment approved resources listed below. Here are some examples of activities that students may wish to undertake to express what they have learned through this unit (specific project ideas should always be pre-approved by the teacher):

  • Set up a timeline display of the meaningful documents studied in the lesson, with appropriate captions.
  • Create a piece of historical fiction set in the 1850s. For example, students could write letters or journal entries in the voice of someone living during the period before the Civil War, describing their reactions to changes brought on by technological progress and new customs, books (such as Uncle Tom's Cabin), and songs.
  • Write and perform skits based on the effects progress had on people's lives.
  • Develop dramatic readings of related documents, such as Lighting Up the Town, or The Difficulties in Charleston.

The Basics

Time Required

1 class periods

Subject Areas
  • History and Social Studies > People > African American
  • History and Social Studies > U.S. > AP US History
  • History and Social Studies > Themes > Civil Rights
  • History and Social Studies > Themes > Culture
  • History and Social Studies > Themes > Demographic Changes
  • History and Social Studies > U.S. > Expansion and Reform (1801-1861)
  • History and Social Studies > U.S. > Civil War and Reconstruction (1850-1877)
  • History and Social Studies > Themes > Economic Transformation
  • History and Social Studies > People > Other
  • History and Social Studies > People > Women
  • History and Social Studies > Themes > Religion
  • History and Social Studies > Themes > Slavery
  • History and Social Studies > Themes > U.S. Constitution
Skills
  • Critical analysis
  • Critical thinking
  • Discussion
  • Evaluating arguments
  • Gathering, classifying and interpreting written, oral and visual information
  • Historical analysis
  • Interpretation
  • Making inferences and drawing conclusions
  • Representing ideas and information orally, graphically and in writing
  • Textual analysis
  • Using primary sources
Authors
  • MMS (AL)

Resources

Media