Thursday, December 2, 2021

Chicago Fire

Have you ever found yourself in a 'survival situation?' Explain how you would build a fire. What do you need? What steps would you take?

October 1871: Chicago is a tinderbox. In three months, only an inch of rain has fallen. For days a strong, hot wind has blown in from the southwest. The city of wooden buildings and woodpaved streets is ripe for the fire that will destroy three-quarters of it. Chicago is about to suffer one of the  worst urban disasters in history. 

Track the path of the fire and read accounts of the people who lived through it, in this interactive timeline and map.

You are part of a special inquiry by the Board of Police and Fire Commissioners to determine how the fire started, could it have been prevented, and who is to blame?

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

The Chicago Fire: Is the Cow to Blame?

In all of American, and even world, history, no bovine is more infamous than a cow, belonging to Patrick and Catharine O’Leary, that was accused of starting what Fire Marshall Robert A. Williams called a "hurricane of fire and cinders.”   One of the worst urban disasters in American History (until the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906) the fire destroyed 73 miles of streets, more than 17,000 buildings, and left a 3rd of the population homeless. Even as the fire cut a swath through the city, neighbors and newspaper reporters quickly placed the blame on the O’Learys and their cow. In the early hours of October 9,  1871, newspapers first reported that the blaze started when the cow, as Catharine milked it, kicked over a kerosene lantern.

What's a fire without a camp song (Lyrics)

But did the Cow do it?

You are part of a special inquiry by the Board of Police and Fire Commissioners to determine how the fire started, could it have been prevented, and who is to blame?

Read the primary source narratives assigned to you in class and then answer these questions on a seperate sheet or in the space provided on the back.

Track the path of the fire and read accounts of the people who lived through it, in this interactive timeline and map.

Friday, November 19, 2021

The All American Hot Dog

What food could be more American than the Hot Dog? What is your favorite? - a chili dog, a cheese dog, or a foot-long dog? A multitude of toppings can enhance the flavor of your hot dog. Common toppings used on hot dogs include ketchup, mustard, onions, relish, chili, cheese, and sauerkraut.

Hot dogs are popular among Americans because they are easy to make, inexpensive, and delicious. Hot dogs can be prepared in a number of great ways--nuke-em, grill-em, sauté-em, roast-em, fry-em or boil-em.

Most recipes for hot dogs combine together a tasty blend of favorite meats (pork, beef, chicken, or turkey), meat fat, a cereal filler which could be either bread crumbs, flour, or oatmeal, a little bit of egg white, and a mouth-watering array of herbs and seasonings including garlic, pepper, ground mustard, nutmeg, salt, and onion.

Once these ingredients are grinded together, the stuffing is squeezed into sausage casings. Many of the hot dogs sold in stores are enclosed in synthetic cellulose casings, but most home-made hot dogs are made out of natural animal intestines.

During the 'Gilded Age' increased production meant that more products were available to the public, but buying them was not always a good idea. Consumers often did not know what was in the products because the government did not regulate product quality.

Meat was one example. In his 1906 novel The Jungle, muckraker Upton Sinclair wrote about unsanitary conditions in meatpacking plants.

Read excerpt from The Jungle by Upton Sinclair and answer these 3 questions.

1) What do you suppose was the reaction of the public when they found out what was in their meat?

2) Why did meat companies allow this to happen?

3) How is our food better regulated today as a result?

Read this excerpt from Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser, watch the trailer for the movie, then answer the next 3 questions.

4) Compare this reading to Upton Sinclair's 100 years ago. Have we learned our lesson?

5) Both Upon Sinclair and Eric Schlosser were "Muckrakers" and used their books to cause change in our society. Perhaps some day you too will write a great American novel; but until that time what greater power do you have? Will you think twice the next time you pull up to the Drive-Thru window?

6) Sinclair himself once stated: “I aimed at the public’s heart, and by accident I hit it in the stomach.” He intended the book to raise public consciousness about the plight of the working poor; like the Lithuanian family in his story. Who do you think works in the slaughterhouses of today? What hasn't changed?

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

New York: Sunshine and Shadow

Mid-century New York City was a mystery to those who were unfamiliar with its stratified society, contrasting neighborhoods, and diverse populations. City guidebooks and illustrated newspapers offered to decode these urban complexities for readers struggling to understand the rapidly expanding metropolis. To enliven their descriptions of the city, the authors and illustrators added theatrical sensationalism with themes of light and darkness in text and image. These contrasting images, representing the richest and poorest sections of the city, appealed to a middle-class audience fascinated by tales of both the opulence and the depravity in New York. Many of the guidebook names, such as Sunlight and Shadow in New York and Lights and Shadows of New York Life, indicate how central the contrasting images were to these depictions of the city.   Read more...

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

How Much Is My Dollar worth?

Although experiments with paper money did occur throughout the early history of the country, they were largely unsuccessful. People, for good reason, didn't trust the notes and preferred gold and silver coin. In 1861, needing money to finance the Civil War, Congress authorized the issuance of Demand notes in $5, $10 and $20 denominations. The Demand notes were so named because they were redeemable in coin "on demand." The notes were nicknamed Greenbacks, a name which is still in use today to refer to United States currency.

By the 1870s the debate between supporters of the gold or silver standard began to dominate national politics. Bankers and others involved in international trade feared that considering silver as money would undermine the economy. In contrast, most farmers favored coining silver hoping it would increase their income. These farmers went on to form the 'Populist' party in 1892.

1) How much is that piece of paper in your wallet really worth?

2) How long do you have to work to earn $1?

3) How much you can buy with $1?

4) Is our dollar worth more or less than other currencies around the world?

5) Is it worth the same today as it was 100 years ago?

6)  Just where does our paper money come from anyway?

7) What are the symbols on the dollar and what do they mean?

8) Does the new U.S. $20 bill contain hidden pictures?

9) What is the 'Fed' and how does it regulate the value of our money?

10) What are the two main mandates of the Fed?

11) Who can really coin money?

12) Why can't they just print as much as they want?

13) What are the conspiracy theories about the Fed?

14) What is the largest denomination US bill ever printed?

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Resistance is Futile

Whats the longest you've ever been away from your home and family? Did you get homesick? Why or Why not?

The drive to  assimilate Indians into the mainstream of American life by changing their customs, dress, occupations, language, religion and philosophy has always been an element in Federal-Indian relations. In the latter part of the 19th century and the early part of the 20th century, this assimilationist policy became dominant. A major thrust of assimilation efforts was to educate Indians in American ways. in 1879 the Carlisle Indian Training School was established by a former military officer. Its 'benevolent philosophy' of separating Indian children totally from their Indian environment   was supposed to help them not cause harm. Forcing Indians to adopt white ways became the basis for a widescale boarding school movement that eventually removed thousands of Indian children from their cultural settings and families.

1) In what specific ways did this young man undergo assimilation?

2) Were assimilated Indians accepted by the whites as Americans? Would they be accepted by their own people when they went home?

3) Was forced assimilation a success or failure? Why?

4) What if our school wanted to enforce a school uniform? Would you approve? Why/not?

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Hollywood Indians

"A Nation that does not know its history has no future."
What does this saying mean? How has Hollywood stereotyped the Indians in the movies? Why?

How is what happened in history very different than the Hollywood stereotype of the Indians as warriors?

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

All Aboard!

Folk music, trains, and railroads would hardly exist in this country without one another. Some of the greatest American folk songs of all time can be traced back to the building of the railroads, the advent of train travel, and, of course, the riding of the rails during the Depression—when working class men and immigrants traveled on trains in search of work.

You may know our nation's railroads were built primarily by African-Americans and immigrants (particularly Irish immigrants). It was grueling work made more tolerable by the presence of music (similarly to the way field calls and African-American folk songs developed out of the slave tradition).

In the case of "I've Been Working on the Railroad," the telling line is "...all the livelong day." These men really did back-breaking work beyond the hours of labor now acceptable in our society.

From Crazy Train to Peace Train, songs about trains are still popular today...


Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Mt. Trumpmore?!

Should President Trump be added to this famous sculpture? Will his legacy be as great? Compare him to the each of the famous Presidents shown.Who is he most like? The least? Why?

"We believe a nation's memorial should, like Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Roosevelt, have a serenity, a nobility, a power that reflects the gods who inspired them and the gods that they have become" 
- Gutzon Borglum, on his reason for building Mt. Rushmore.

Mount Rushmore stands as a ‘shrine of Democracy’, in South Dakota. It has commemorated four epoch-making presidents of America. It typifies the first 150 years of the history of United States of America and dates back to 1923. Mount Rushmore continues to remain the most popular tourist spot in South Dakota.

Is Mt. Rushmore truly a 'Shrine to Democracy'  or a symbol of White Supremacy?  You Decide.

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

The End Justifies the Means


Machiavelli's name is a byword for immorality and political scheming. But that's deeply unfair. This was simply a political theorist interested in the survival and flourishing of the state.  Can you be a 'good person' and a good 'politician?'  What would Richard Nixon say?

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Nixon's 'Checkers' Speech


On September 23, 1952, California senator Richard Nixon reserved a spot on television to deliver the most important speech of his career. With this address, Nixon hoped to squash rumors that he had accepted $18,000 in illegal political contributions to finance personal expenses. The Republicans had recently nominated Nixon to run for vice president on Dwight D. Eisenhower’s ticket. When these charges against Nixon became public, Eisenhower was noncommittal— he did not drop Nixon from the ticket, but he also did not defend him.

In his speech, Nixon said, “Not one cent of the $18,000 or any other money of that type ever went to me for my personal use. Every penny of it was used to pay for political expenses that I did not think should be charged to the taxpayers of the United States.” But, he did confess to accepting one personal gift:

A man down in Texas heard [my wife] Pat on the radio mention the fact that our two youngsters would like to have a dog. And, believe it or not, the day before we left on this campaign trip, we got a message from Union Station in Baltimore saying they had a package for us. We went down to get it. You know what it was. It was a little cocker spaniel dog in a crate he’d sent all the way from Texas. Black and white spotted. And our little girl—Tricia, the 6-year-old—named it Checkers. And you know, the kids, like all kids, love the dog, and I just want to say this right now, that regardless of what they say about it, we’re gonna keep it.

—Senator Richard Nixon, “Checkers” speech, September 23, 1952

Do you trust him?   Why or why not?

Monday, April 26, 2021

And the Envelope Please....

The first Academy Awards in 1929 were a far cry from the suspense, glamour and endless press coverage surrounding the Oscars today: The first award recipients’ names were printed on the back page of the academy’s newsletter. A few days later, Variety published the information--on page seven.

Spearheaded by movie mogul Louis B. Mayer, the Academy was organized in May 1927 as a non-profit organization dedicated to the advancement and improvement of the film industry. The first awards went to movies produced in 1927 and 1928. Though the announcements were made in February 1929, the actual awards weren’t given out until May 16, 1929, in a ceremony and banquet held in the Blossom Room of the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. Some 270 people attended the dinner, many paying $5 each for a ticket.

The first Academy Award winners also received gold statuettes but the awards weren’t nicknamed “Oscars” until 1931, when a secretary at the Academy noted the statue’s resemblance to her Uncle Oscar, and a journalist printed her remark. The Academy’s first president, the silent film actor Douglas Fairbanks, handed out the statuettes to the winners, who included Janet Gaynor for Best Actress (for three different films: Seventh Heaven, Street Angel and Sunrise) and the German-born Emil Jannings (The Last Command and The Way of All Flesh) for Best Actor. Frank Borzage and Lewis Milestone both won Best Director awards, for Seventh Heaven and Two Arabian Knights, respectively. Best Picture honors went to "Wings," the World War I drama directed by William Wellman. Special recognition was given to actor/ director Charlie Chaplin and the movie "The Jazz Singer" which was excluded for being a 'talkie.'

Who is the on the Academy?  Could you be a member?  What movies do you think were the best?

Which movie won 'Best Picture' this year? How many of these 'Best Pictures' have you seen?  Have these movies stood the test of time?

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Kelly's Killers

Mike Kelly's Reds team, whose known today as the Cincinnati Kelly's Killers, was born under rather strange circumstances. The west side Cincinnati Reds had played in the American Association from 1882 to 1889 before moving into the National League for the 1890 season.

The National Baseball Hall of Fame enshrined King Kelly in their halls way back in 1945. Their online bio reads in part, "Not only was Mike 'King' Kelly one of the premier players of his day, he was also one of the most flamboyant. His daring baserunning prompted fans to coin the battle cry, Slide, Kelly, Slide!