A colonial broadside, a one-page, one-sided "newspaper" page meant to be hung on walls and posts.
Gutenberg printed his first in 1454. They are still printed today. They are broadsides: notices written on disposable, single sheets of paper printed on one side only, intended to have an immediate impact on readers.
Broadsides did have an impact in colonial America. They delivered the latest news and much more: government proclamations, public service announcements, opinion papers, advertisements, and entertainment updates. Broadsides address virtually every aspect of the American Revolution, providing a wide range of suitable classroom topics. In this lesson, students will use the resources of the Library of Congress's Printed Ephemera Collection to experience the news as the colonists heard it.
Note: Culminate your study of events leading to the American Revolution in the complementary EDSITEment lesson, Colonial Broadsides: A Student-Created Play.
After completing the lessons in this unit, students will be able to
Discuss what can be learned from this broadside about the Stamp Act and the colonists' reaction to the Stamp Act:
How your students search will depend on your goals. For a chronological approach, search by date -- "1774," for instance, returns 50 possible broadsides. Remind students that, because of technological limits on communication and transportation, events on a particular date may not be reacted to until quite a bit later—even the next year. Searching by location ("Boston") or keyword may also be especially useful. A search for "tea," for example, uncovers 32 broadsides. Your curricular goals should guide decisions about whether a broadside is relevant; in any case, students should always be required to prepare evidence showing how any particular document connects to an event.
If your students have adequate access to computers, you might assign each small group of students one or more historical event on the timeline for which to find a relevant broadside. They can print out a copy, present it to the class, and affix it to a large timeline for display. In classes without access to computers, the teacher can print out full text (modern typeset) and colonial versions of the broadsides and after student groups pick at random, they can analyze one or more broadsides, present to the class, and then place the colonial version on the timeline.
If desired, a Broadside Analysis Worksheet is available to help students examine a particular broadside. This worksheet is based on the Written Document Analysis Worksheet from the EDSITEment resource Digital Classroom. Make sure students understand that they will not necessarily be able to fill in every item for every broadside. For example, some broadsides do not reveal the author.
As a class, proceed from event to event on the timeline. For each event, give groups a chance to suggest related broadsides; a spokesperson should explain the connection. If practical, post the broadside. Brief, pertinent portions of the broadside could be read aloud, but not the entire document. A sample of selected broadsides placed along a timeline is available as a downloadable PDF.
3 class periods