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New Primary Source Set: American Industrial Revolution (1820-1930s)

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[caption id="attachment_9228" align="alignright" width="300"]Fourteen year older spinner working at the Brazos Valley Cotton Mill in West, Texas (1913). Fourteen year older spinner working at the Brazos Valley Cotton Mill in West, Texas (1913).[/caption]

Developed as a result of participating in the History in Motion program, a collaboration between Emerging America and the Library of Congress, the following primary source set contains materials focused on the American Industrial Revolution throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. During the American Industrial Revolution the lives of individual citizens, as well as the overall structure of society, underwent a fundamental transformation. Some of these changes included: the pace of work, the availability and quality of goods and products, the development of complex urban centers, the introduction of technological advancements, and the implementation of a fast and reliable transportation network. Using the sources provided, students will be encouraged to activate their background knowledge, draw conclusions, makes predictions, and ultimately develop their own lines of inquiry regarding the scope and impact of the Industrial Revolution. Teachers can implement any number of strategies to achieve this including the “Primary Source Analysis Tool” from the Library of Congress. The Library of Congress “Primary Source Analysis Tool” provides a graphical way for students to organize, reflect and produce questions related to a particular primary source document. For example, students could analyze a famous image of the “Breaker Boys”, dirty from working in harsh and unsafe conditions in the coal mines during the early Industrial Revolution. Using the Primary Source Analysis Tool, students are encouraged to answer questions about the image such as: What do you notice about this image that you cannot explain? or What do you thinking was happening when this photograph was taken? By allowing students to dive into the primary source documents at a deeper level, students gain a better understanding of the topic at hand. The set itself includes four main areas of study: Workers, Factories, Technological Innovation, and Transportation. Each subset could serve as its own individual unit of study or the sections could be used to encourage a more comprehensive take on the Industrial Revolution as a whole.

View more details, or download and access the primary source set online

Emerging America brings this primary source set to you thanks to the outstanding primary sources and materials provided free by the Library of Congress.


Karen Albano

History eNews Editor, Emerging America
Karen Albano began working with the Emerging America program in 2015. She is currently the editor of the weekly History eNews, and has contributed to many facets of the Emerging America program, including developing curriculum, improving the accessibility of the website to educators, and overseeing social media outreach.